Sunday, February 23, 2014

Review Writing 101

Recently, I had the pleasure of reviewing the works of one of my constituents in the writing industry.  After reading her work carefully, I phoned her and we chatted at length about her project during which I cited the high points of her work.

When I sat down to write the formal review, I gave the work four out of five stars, but as my fingers touched the keyboard, I realized that something was missing for me regarding her storyline, and it wasn't until I started writing the review that I realized what it was.

The review itself was not what I would have considered poor by any means.  As a matter of fact, I actually wrote that the work was good.  But within my review, I pointed out something that from my perspective wasn't there for me as a reader which may have come across as a negative.

After speaking with the author, I realized that the mistake that was made was that I strayed from my formula for putting reviews together.  Normally, I email the pros and cons to the author regarding  what I enjoyed about the work as well as what I didn't particularly care for...whether it be the editing, character development or interpretation of plot.  In this instance, I didn't send an email.  Instead, we talked.

Creating the email allows me time to let the full story marinate in my mind so that I can be as objective as possible when I write the review, and it allows the author the time to prepare for what is ultimately going to be written about his or her work.  Hence, they know what I am going to write but not necessarily what the exact language is that I am going to use.  No one will be blindsided.

For as long as I have been writing reviews, this formula has worked for me because it allowed me to be able to say what I truly thought about the author's work without my words coming across as if I were attacking him or her.

Moving forward, this will not happen again because I realize that part of the review writing process is to be completely transparent.  The author will be ready to accept what you write (even if the review is less than stellar), as long they know what you are writing is honest and fair.

As I move forward into 2014 the reviews that I will write will have several components to them including the most important piece which is the "Pros and Cons" email.  The review will appear on The Examiner and possibly CNN.  I will also host the Q&A section on The Writer's Megaphone platform which will include the link to the article and promote it accordingly to grant further exposure.  This, of course, will be at my discretion.  Some works will appear on this site, some will just have the review...but all of this is is done with the intention of granting exposure to authors using the social media tools that I have at my disposal.

There is so much talent in the literary industry and much of that talent is well deserving of having as much exposure as possible.  This is something that I enjoy doing and that as long as it is still enjoyable, I will continue to do since I do this on my own time.

Look for features that will showcase the talents of writers that you've heard of and some that you haven't.  The best is yet to come!

And while you're at it, take a look at my new website! It was in great need of an overhaul!

Keep Writing!

~ J.L. Whitehead

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Paying your dues in the Writing Industry

I used to think of "paying your dues" as an expression that indicated that you've invested the appropriate amount of time in a craft and now you were ready for the rewards.  I used to think that it meant that you had to make the right amount of connections, taking perhaps years instead of months.

I used to think this.

But I've realized that as I write this, paying your dues means so much more than that.  Paying your dues isn't based on how many books that you did or did not sell.  That's a very small equation of the process to say the least.

I believe that paying your dues is time invested, networks trusted and failed, friendships gained and lost in addition to the proverbial gauge of monies made.

I took a risk when I entered this industry many years ago.  I had a manuscript that was picked up by a publisher who initially thought the world of me and my work.  We talked endlessly about the plot shifts and changes; so much so that I came away feeling that I truly had a best seller on my hands.  It ended with the the dissolution of our business relationship.  But  in our brief business dealings, I gained knowledge which fueled me to move forward and establish my own company to publish my own books.  Initially, I thought that I would want to publish other authors, and while I may consider that option in the future, that isn't the avenue that I wish to pursue currently.

Everyday brings a different experience for me.  Every week, there is something new to learn.  Every month, I am meeting someone new who may add to my thought process in what direction to take my business and my work.  That is the norm for me now, but it wasn't always the case.

Paying your dues isn't a destination, it's a journey.  You learn your industry, hone your craft, build connections...but above all, you keep writing.

I've lost money.  Some of my friendships have been permanently tainted.  There are business relationships that I used to have that no longer exist.  But through it all, I'm still learning because at the end of the day, this is what you are supposed to do.  It is all part of the paying your dues process.

Branding yourself is also part of the process.  Who are you?  What do you want to be known for?  Are you a publisher?  If you aren't and you aspire to be one, why?  Are you a writer?  If so, what do you write and why?  What do you hope to become in this industry?  Besides money, what do you hope to gain?  How do you want people to remember you?  These are all questions that you need to be asking yourself.  I asked myself those questions.  And at least once a year, I still do.  Goals and reasons change.  Sometimes, you aren't even aware of when they do.

Keep learning, because in addition to the vast amounts of talent that saturate our industry, there is also a wealth of knowledge.  I've found out that paying your dues, never really stops.  It just changes from time to time with the knowledge and experience that you gain.

~ J.L. Whitehead

Quote:  "I believe that paying your dues is time invested, networks trusted and failed, friendships gained and lost in addition to the proverbial gauge of monies made."

The Legacy Diner

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