Sitting through an entire day of Writing Geekdome is both exhilarating and exhausting. I've been to quite a few of these writing conferences, so I've heard much of what is being said before.
My goal these days is to dive for those gems. Those bits of advise that, now that I have been writing for a while, I am ready to receive with an open mind and a desire to improve my craft with.
While I heard loads of good things today (and kudos to the LTUE committee who brought in a lot of great presentations) I think I can narrow down the best advise I gleaned here.
J. Scott Savage, whom I do not know personally, gave a presentation on using reviews to help your writing.
I thought it would be more about critique groups, but instead he used actual reviews from professionals, bloggers and the like. For a few minutes I wondered if I should get up and leave—I don't have anything out there to review yet—but then he got my attention.
He said to think of your current work in progress, or the novel you're about to query, or are at this time editing. Now think of five novels that are like it. Be certain to have these comparison novels in the same target age group, same genre and as close as you can get to the same feel.
If I'm writing a novel about a girl who wants to rip people's eyes out of their sockets, I wouldn't pull up YA paranormal romance to compare it with. Unless some voodoo priestess is controlling her and a Travis, a shape shifter whose preferred animal is a crocodile is going to be the one to save her.
Yikes, that almost sounds like a plot.
If you're mind goes blank, check out Good Reads, Amazon and/or Google. Find these novels and look at the reviews.
Ignore the one star and five star reviews. Single stars are likely from the wrong audience (think Twilight girls reading Tom Clancy) and five stars are probably from friends and family of the author. Two stars might be useful, while four stars are mostly people who thought, “Yeah, I liked that book.”
It's the three stars you want to focus on. They liked the book okay, but it lacked . . . fill in the blank. Or there was too much . . . insert here.
Gather a bunch of them, go through them and turn back to your own novel.
Does your novel suffer from any of the same problems? If so, figure out how to fix it. These are things people notice—it's worth taking the time to find them and get them out of your story.
Very cool advise. I'm on this next week. :)