Winning by inches

“Victory is won not in miles but in inches. Win a little now, hold your ground, and later, win a little more.” –Louis L’Amour

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Back to the beginning

The books are here, the bookmarks are here, the door prizes for the launch party are almost ready, and it’s official: Stone Alliance is in its finished form, no more to be hacked apart and reassembled.

And just like that, I’m jumping from my beautifully polished, finished project to some really rough early drafts.

It’s hard.

The characters refuse to settle into their roles and personalities, I’m falling into gaping plot holes every two steps, and oh, the clichés!

This is the point where my writerly ego takes a severe battering. It’s happened before, it’ll happen again, I’ll keep pushing through it. But I think one of the hardest parts of being a writer is that the first draft never seems to get better, no matter how many first drafts you’ve written.

What’s the hardest part of the writing process for you?

Priorities…

Blogging was not high on my list of priorities today. But I’m trying to be better at being consistent, so I’m taking a minute to update and using this post as a place to lay out my projects and prioritize what needs to happen first. So this is what I have in front of me:

  • New beta read! I’m most excited about this one, so it’s probably going to get top slot. I love reading new books from new writer friends, and this looks like a good one.
  • Rewriting. This is something I’d love to lock myself up and devote my day to, but it’s the absolute least pressing. But I’m so excited about how this novel is turning out! It’s a plot I’ve been tossing around and reshaping for years, and it’s finally coming together.
  • Door prizes. I’m pulling together the door prizes for my launch party next Saturday, and I’m SO EXCITED! They look amazing. I’ll post a picture once it’s all done.
  • Other launch party prep. I’ve got to decide which part I’m going to read, what exactly I’m going to talk about, etc.
  • Layout design. I’m designing the interior layout for another author’s book and loving every minute of it. It’s good to be back on the editing/design side of the profession. Being a writer is my first and foremost passion, but I sure love the editing role as well. It’s been a couple of  years since I’ve done it professionally, but I’m hoping to get more into it in the near future.

Okay, time to get moving here. What are you working on today?

A writer’s life

“Every  morning, no matter how late he had been up, my father rose at 5:30, went to his study, wrote for a couple of hours, made us all breakfast, read the paper with my mother, and then went back to work for the rest of the morning. Many years passed before I realized that he did this by choice, for a living, and that he was not unemployed or mentally ill.”

(Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird)

Why I love three-star reviews

The first days after releasing a book, it’s hard not to compulsively check Amazon and Goodreads every ten minutes to see whether there’s a new review. As a writer, I LOVE four- and five-star reviews. Let’s be honest. I like being told that I’m a brilliant writer.

But as time has passed, I’ve found that, while five-star reviews are the most encouraging and exciting, the most useful reviews, both as a reader and a writer, are the three-star reviews.

I know some people who get upset at three-star reviews, as if it’s a negative rating. It’s not. On Goodreads, three stars is described as “I liked it.” And you know, I’m okay with people liking my books.

And the thing about three-star reviews is, the reviewer is often much more fair about presenting the strengths and weaknesses of a book. It’s not nearly as fun to hear about my writing weaknesses as it is to hear about everything I did well, but it’s so necessary. If I don’t know what problems readers have with my writing, I don’t know how to polish it up, make my words smoother and more powerful.

I also appreciate the frank honesty of three-star reviews. Higher ratings tend toward effusive praise and lower ratings tend toward vague, snippy generalizations; but three-star reviews are (generally speaking) more thoughtful and complete examinations of a book’s merits.

How do you feel about three stars? Do you tend to rate books high, middling, or low?

The danger of reviews

I recently reread a trilogy that, aside from an abundance of teenage romance, I thoroughly enjoyed. It had a complex and engaging plot, varied and developed characters, and a villain who gave me nightmares. Granted, it wasn’t a literary master piece or anything, but it was fun YA sci-fi.

When I posted my rating on Goodreads, I happened to glance at the other reviews on the page. I was surprised to see a number of fairly negative reviews, in spite of a decent overall rating on the book. Glancing through them, I found that I really didn’t agree with most of the reviews, and the bits that I did sort of agree with weren’t a big enough deal to me to lower my four-star rating.

This is the down side of my up-down relationship with Goodreads. I love seeing what my friends are reading and their reviews–but I hate seeing reviews from total strangers, because I can’t put it in context of their personality.

Book bloggers are a step up, because I feel like I do get some sense of their personality and their perspective after a bit. I can tell where our tastes meet and where they diverge. Usually. If it’s a good blogger.

But my top source of book recommendations is still my circle of bookish friends. We know each other well enough that we can say, “I liked this book but don’t think it would appeal to you” or, conversely, “I didn’t like this book, but it’s right up your alley.” Not only that, if I read a book on a friend’s recommendation, I already know that I have someone to talk to about it when I’m done. Because, seriously, what’s worse than loving a book and having NOBODY to talk to about it? I’m still trying to find someone to squeal about A Corner of White with, by the way, if any of you have read it. The last book in the trilogy is coming out next month and I’m dying here!

So how do you feel about online reviews? Do you check out Goodreads before you pick a book? Any favorite book bloggers?