Thursday, January 31, 2013

Letting People Read Our Work by Cindy Keen Reynders

Cindy Keen Reynders was born in Portland, Oregon and has lived all over the United States and also in Japan. She currently lives in Cheyenne, Wyoming with her husband Rich whose family has lived in the state for generations. At one time, she had three poodles that matched the color of her carpet. She now has one poodle, a Shih Tzu mix that likes to “eat” the carpet.

A mystery author with two series, Cindy also has a job in the real world. She works for Laramie County School District 1 (LCSD1) in Cheyenne as a marketing specialist in the district’s Community Relations department. 

The Saucy Lucy Series from Medallion Media Group includes The Saucy Lucy Murders (2007), Paws-itively Guilty (2008), and A Killer Slice (Amazon, 2011). Her Wysteria Hedge Haven Clan Series from Angelic Knight Press includes 7 Year Witch (2012) and her newest release, A Witch at Midnight


Letting People Read Our Work by Cindy Keen Reynders

Sooner or later, writers must bare themselves to the world.

No, we don’t have to run around stark naked and expose our booties or anything that might get us arrested. If that were necessary, I’d never have become a writer. Seriously, I would scare animals and small children. Walking around minus clothing is definitely not my thing, though I did once visit a beach in the Bahamas where some of the ladies had no compunction about letting it all hang out.

I certainly wasn’t one of them.

But I digress. What I’m trying to explain is that we must let people read our work so we can get feedback about our story plots, our dialogue, characterization, tone, setting, POV, etc. Critique groups are awesome for providing this or perhaps a group of trusted friends might work more effectively. After all, we’re not writing for ourselves. We’re writing for an audience, and we want our stories to be polished before we send them out into the world.

I think the compliments about our writing are easy enough to digest. It’s the constructive criticism that stings. However it behooves us to listen and absorb the information that is being shared by the critique partner, friend, etc. That doesn’t mean you have to cave and take everything to heart. After all, these are opinions. Please note that it’s important to be professional and at least consider what people have to say after they’ve taken the time to review manuscript pages. It’s possible certain individuals might bring publishing industry experience to the table that might prove invaluable.

The other side of the coin is that sometimes people simply may not care for our writing style or maybe they don’t read a lot in the genre of our choice. That’s cool. Different strokes, you know? If we sense that is the case, we should politely thank the critique partner, consider what they’ve said, and either incorporate their suggestions or ignore them. We don’t have to cuss them out or make enemies for life. It’s unnecessary to burn bridges. We want to make friends along our writing journey, not enemies who throw sour grapes at us.

In my experience, once we become used to the process, it is easier to sift through the well-meant advice. That’s not to say it’s ever easy, but we learn, over time, which suggestions we want to incorporate or ignore.

Here’s some show and tell you might enjoy. I made a complete nincompoop of myself the first time I took pages of my writing to a critique session. It was a closed group, and a writer friend got permission from the head honchos to allow me to visit. In my innocence, I thought I’d knock their socks off with my brilliant scene.

I couldn’t have been more misguided. This particular group had a strict format requirement, which I did not follow. Strike one. I single-spaced my pages. Strike two. I placed my stapled pages in a folder instead of simply paper clipping them. Strike three. If that wasn’t humiliating enough, one of the members, a multi-published author, took one look at my first paragraph, turned as white as a sheet, and left the room in a big hurry.

Needless to say, that manuscript has never seen the light of day. But I learned a lot from the comments that group gave me. Over the years, I’ve belonged to many groups and I love the synergy. I love the different points of view people have to offer and the brainstorming that can add creative twists to a story.

Do you have a critique group that you meet with regularly? If you do, kudos for taking the leap. I think they are very worthwhile. If you don’t, it’s something you might want to consider. Think of it this way—athletes have coaches. Why shouldn’t writers have them, too?


Thanks, Cindy, for being my guest today. And by the way, I love the cover art for the two books in the new series.

For more information about Cindy and her mysteries, visit her website and her blog Saucy Lucy Wisdom.  She can also be found on Twitter and Facebook.


Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

That critique group sounds stuffy.
I have two test readers and three critique partners, and I was blessed to find great ones so quickly. They understand my genre and my style.

Margot Kinberg said...

Pat - Thanks for hosting Cindy.

Cindy - I couldn't possibly agree more that it's important to have people read our work. I think the choice of who gives us feedback is really important too. In my opinion a good choice of reader is someone who likes and supports the author enough to want that author to succeed. But at the same time, that person has to be honest enough to tell the truth about a manuscript.

Cindy Keen Reynders said...

It's great to find good readers, isn't it Alex? Thanks for stopping by.

Cindy Keen Reynders said...

I agree with you, Margot. Honesty is the most helpful whem people read your work. Nice talking with you!

Cindy Keen Reynders said...
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Cindy Keen Reynders said...

And Pat, thanks for letting me be here today!

Patricia Stoltey said...

Cindy, it's my pleasure.

I love my own critique group. We're learning a lot about when and when not to follow advice. It's easy sometimes to become too dependent on critiques when we need to weigh comments and think it through for ourselves.

Dean K Miller said...

Greetings Cindy from a fellow native "Portlandier" now in Loveland.

Currently I'm not in a crit. group, but do have a couple of beta readers I go to when it's time. I rather enjoy (maybe appreciate is better) the honesty, as tough as it can be to hear.

I'm one who doesn't mind the revision process...that's when things really start to get better.

I've worked in a larger group (6-7) and a smaller group (3.) Both groups have their pluses and minuses.

Thanks Pat for hosting Cindy...and I do enjoy how Alex is always first to post on your blog. It's good to have something to count on!

Patricia Stoltey said...

I don't think Alex or Margot ever sleep, Dean. It's hard to beat them either one of them to the computer. :D

Cindy Keen Reynders said...

Hi Dean!

It's only because of the revision process that our work gets better. Even though it's sometimes tough to get through, it's oh so important in order to turn out quality writing. LOL, I have "voices" of critique group members in my head that now crack the whip when I need to hear how to craft scenes or sentences better.

Angela Brown said...

Cindy, you are so on point. Getting feedback from a fresh pair of eyes is extremely helpful in finding those plotholes, grammatical errors, POV shifts, etc., that we may miss having worked so closely with the writing.

Although I do not have a face-to-face group, I have a few online CPs who's input and feedback I value very much.

Cindy Keen Reynders said...

Hi Angela! It is definitely valuable to have people look at what we've written. I like to know, first off, whether they are enjoying the story or if they have suggestions to make it better, etc. Thanks for stopping by!

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L. Diane Wolfe said...

That first time is always the scariest.

I was with a critique group in my town for a few months, but they met every week and had so many assignments that I eventually gave up. I wasn't getting any of my own writing done.

Cindy Keen Reynders said...

First, apologies for the repeated comments! It's the mysterious case of a Smart Phone being dumb. I understand what you mean, Diane. Our own writing must come first. Since I work full time, I'm a time Nazi and I have a good friend, another writer, that I discuss writing things with. We do what we can!

Patricia Stoltey said...

I wondered what was happening with those comments, Cindy. I'll go in and delete the repeats.

Cindy Keen Reynders said...

Ah, thanks! My phone decided to go crazy.

Gary Raham said...

Good points regarding critique groups. The best ones are a kind of marriage contract between individuals with similar interests who have a sincere desire to help others while improving their own writing. To be successful members have to feel comfortable providing honest feedback while those on the receiving end shouldn't feel persecuted.

Yolanda Renee said...

Great advice, Cindy:
I joined several groups and started my own. It's invaluable but your point about taking the advice carefully is so important. When I first started I listened to everything, tried to do it all, then I realized I wasn't being true to me. That quickly changed when my editor got wind of it. She set me straight.

Good post!

Thanks Patricia, also wanted you to know that planner is being put to good use. Thank you!

Patricia Stoltey said...

Gary, I agree. If we feel persecuted during a critique, we probably won't stay with the group very long.

Hi Yolanda -- It's hard to trust our gut when in a critique group. I'm glad your editor stepped in. And I'm so glad you're getting good use out of the planner. I like mine too.

M. K. Theodoratus said...

Enjoyed the article and the comments, all.

As for critique groups, I think they are essential for a writer to get some perspective on what they're writing. Critique groups do that.

For me personally, I need my critiquers to tell me where the holes are in the logical flow of my stories.