Bonnie Milani, author of Home World, discusses book critiques

I always love to host WOW Women On Writing blog tour authors. It’s a great way to meet new authors and to be introduced to book Home World Covergenres that I don’t normally turn to. Home World by Bonnie Milani is on of those books.

Today Bonnie shares her thoughts about book critiques, which are particularly timely for me. I just lived through some hard-to-take critiques about my novel from members of my writing group.

Please comment here for a chance to win a copy of Home World, a fast paced well-written story about the power and the price of love. A winner will be picked at random and announced on Monday, December 9.

Here’s Bonnie….

What Makes a Good Critique?

Ah, critiques.  They’re the bitter part of the writer’s bittersweet craft.  Having just had an infected/impacted /fused-to-the-jaw bone wisdom tooth pulled, I’m most cogently reminded just how painful a critique can be.  Actually, that’s a pretty good analogy, come to think of it.  Because as the pain in my jaw fades, I’m becoming aware of how much better my mouth feels overall.  It was emphatically not a fun experience, but having survived it I can see I’m better off for it.

Taking a critique follows much the same path.  It’s painful to hear words you sweated over and swore at and re-wrote until you got your story down.  Then along comes a critiquer who, instead of praising your work as the finest expression ever seen in the English language, proceeds to tell you that not only is your story not perfect, it’s got elements that are flat-out wrong.  It feels like listening to somebody saying your child is ugly and you dress her funny.  It’s a wrenching experience (hmmm….that tooth analogy really does work, doesn’t it?).  It’s also, like dental work, necessary.  Without a good critique, we can’t see our stories as our readers see them; we know so much about them we can unconsciously fill in the gaps in logic or character behavior that readers see.

The operant word here, of course, is good.   Without good critiques none of us can grow as writers.  The question, then, is what makes a critique good?   Speaking as an old freelance writer and editor as well as a writing teacher, I vote for the ‘sandwich’ style:  a good critique acknowledges a story’s strengths and praises outstanding elements, even if it’s just a fine turn of phrase or a beautiful image.  It’s just as important to acknowledge where a story does work, as it is to point out where it doesn’t.  It’s in this second part of the critique, the ‘here’s what doesn’t work’ part that makes or breaks a critique.  To write a good critique you can’t just tell the author, ‘your plot line doesn’t make any sense!’  You have to explain why the plot lost you and where.  You have to cover character, plot, story structure, and plot development.  You have to give the author specific examples of the problems you find:  where did the plot lose you?  Which specific elements didn’t tie together?  Why didn’t’ they?  Most importantly of all, a good critique offers the author some suggestions as to what the writer can do to fix the problem.  That doesn’t mean to re-write the story, but rather to explain what kind of change would fix the problems you found.

Writing a good critique isn’t easy, certainly not at first.  It takes time and a great deal of thoughtful analysis.  It’s worth the effort, though.  Why?  Because in order to properly critique someone else’s story you must think analytically about the mechanics of story-telling.  You learn to think in terms of plot structure, pacing, character consistency.  Gradually, you’ll realize you’re able to apply the same line of critical analysis to your own work.  And then my dear – then you’ll start to discover how good you really are!

Why not try the method out on whatever you’re writing now?  Step back and pretend you’re looking at it through someone else’s eyes.  Try to blank out everything you know about your story and just respond to the words on the page.  What works?  What doesn’t?  Why?   Then share what you discover with Madeline’s other followers.  What say?

Book Summary and Details

Home World‘s love story takes place amid the ruins of a post-apocalyptic Waikiki. Jezekiah Van Buren thinks he has found a way to restore Earth –Home World, to the other worlds of the human commonwealth. His goal is to restore his home to her lost glory.

Ingenious even by the standards of the genetically enhanced Great Family Van Buren, Jezekiah has achieved the impossible:  he has arranged a treaty that will convert Earth’s ancient enemies, the Lupans, to her most powerful allies.  Not only will the treaty terms make Earth rich again, it will let him escape the Ring that condemns him to be Earth’s next ruler.  Best of all, the treaty leaves him free to marry Keiko Yakamoto, the Samurai-trained woman he loves.  Everything’s set.  All Jezekiah has to do is convince his xenophobic sister to accept the Lupan’s alpha warlord in marriage.

Before, that is, the assassin she’s put on his tail succeeds in killing him.  Or the interstellar crime ring called Ho Tong succeed in raising  another rebellion.  Or before his ruling relatives on competing worlds manage to execute him for treason.  But Jezekiah was bred for politics and trained to rule.  He’s got it all under control. Until his Lupan warlord-partner reaches Earth.  And suddenly these two most powerful men find themselves in love with the same woman.   A woman who just may be the most deadly assassin of them all.

Paperback:  400 Pages

Publisher:  Promontory Press

ISBN-10:  978-1-927559-24-6

Twitter hashtag: #HWorld

Home World is available as a print and e- book at Amazon.

Author Bio and Contact Information

Bonnie Milani Head ShotBonnie vividly recalls the book that helped her decide she could out-write another writer: it was a junior reader’s biography of Sir William Harvey, the 17th century English physician credited (in the West) with discovering how blood circulates. After about 30 pages of telling herself “I can write better than that!” she grabbed a crayon that just happened to be blue and started editing. She was all of seven years old at the time. Unfortunately for her juvenile bottom it was a library book. She followed the dream through college and after grad school, freelancing feature articles for newspapers along the East Coast. Milani even wrote a cover story for Science Digest! Alas life and grown up responsibilities caught up with her and by her late twenties she put writing away with so many other dreams while she followed a ‘career track.’ After losing her entire family, she realized story telling wasn’t just a want but a need and a gift God gave her. So here she is, a self-declared “middle-aged pudge” working on getting back into a writer’s kind of real life!

Home World Website: www.homeworldthenovel.com

Bonnie’s Email: bonnie.milani@yahoo.com

 

 

 

Comments

  1. Excellent article … I have utilized a variety of critiques of my novel in process over the past two years, including workshops, beta readers, and a paid editor. Virtually all have been “good” critiques in the way you describe, and I found them encouraging, reassuring and helpful.

    I’ve had only one — from a professional workshop teacher, no less — that was solely negative, with no useful suggestions on what I might do to improve it. Intellectually, I understood she simply didn’t like the book, and I know that not everyone will. Nonetheless, it was a devastating experience, and it took me days to get past it.

    Thanks for providing a way for critiquers and beta readers to be helpful.

    • Hi, Mary!
      I’m a tad slow in responses these days, so I’ve only now seen your post. THANK YOU SO MUCH for sharing! It is such a warm’n wonderful thrill to hear that a sister writer found some of my advice helpful. Your good words just brightened a dreary day!
      Hugs
      Bonnie Milani

  2. Madeline Sharples says:

    Thanks for stopping by, Mary. Critiques are so important when they are constructive. Otherwise they are useless.

  3. Madeline, dahlink!
    OY, it was only in posting now that I realized the ‘thank you’ I THOUGHT I’d posted yesterday didn’t take. I am so sorry to be tardy! Truly unintentional – I do so very much appreciate your interest & the chance to share my experience with you & your readers.
    Hugs
    Bonnie Milani

  4. Madeline Sharples says:

    You are very welcome, Bonnie. Very nice to have you here.
    Best,
    Madeline

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