Writing Feedback, Critiques, & Criticism

???????????????Writing feedback. I have a love/ hate/ love/ love/ hate/ appreciate/ dread relationship with it. I imagine most writers do.

Of course we dread it. Which artist wants to pour their heart and soul and energy into their creative work and then have someone tear it to pieces? Even though I know– a thousand times over– that my editor is on my team, I still have major moments of panic when I read her feedback.

Yet the love/appreciate part is very, very important. Without critique, my writing hits an early apex. I can’t push through to a higher, better, superior level of writing without the much-needed push from feedback.

This is what feedback looks like in my own life:

Writing group. Every month, I meet with three other novelists. Each of us are working on our own projects, and they’re all very different from one another. The week before we meet, we send each other what we’re working on– maybe a few pages, maybe a couple chapters, maybe a whole manuscript– and share what kind of feedback we need.

Last month, along with my submission, I asked:

What I’d like from you:
* to know what you like
* what you want more of
* what doesn’t work
* any prompts you might have

The four of us get together, eat some soup, chat about life for a little bit, then dive into each other’s work. We start with one person’s work, and each other person shares their thoughts on it. We agree, disagree, discuss, brainstorm, and support. Before we move on to the next person, the person whose work we’re discussing gets to ask any questions she might have. And so on.

This monthly meeting is so critical to me. It keeps me on track, keeps me accountable, keeps me motivated. It helps steer me down the right rabbit holes. When I leave, I can’t wait to get back to work.

I’m lucky, I know, to have three talented writers in my life whom I can meet with in person, and I know it doesn’t work out that way for everyone. But I think that committed writers need to fight for this opportunity, whether that means seeking out local writers (even if you don’t know them!) or finding critique partners online. I thought this article from The Write Life was great: 40 Places to Find a Critique Partner.

Beta readers. Yes, that’s right– in addition to my writing group, I also share my work in progress with a handful of other readers– some who are also writers, some who are not. I let them read my manuscript and tell me what tripped them up as they read. Obviously, it’s not fun to hear what trips your readers up– but it allows me to fix it.

I think it’s helpful to have beta readers from a variety of different backgrounds, people who are excited about your writing, willing to read it, and able to share their thoughts (when possible, I recommend buying their lunch in exchange for their feedback).

My editor. Ahhh, yes. Here I know I am privileged, of course, to have a genius editor at HarperCollins able to pour her brilliance into my work. But even before I was working with Jill, I still paid an editor in Minneapolis (Ben Barnhart, he’s great!) to read my work– for developmental, big-picture edits, and also for line edits.

Not to mention writing workshops (I highly recommend the Big Sur Writing Workshop!) and copy editors (they amaze me).

My point is simply this: if you want to be a good writer, write; if you want to be a great writer, seek out criticism, embrace it, and let it push you past your own limits.

Criticism is not the knife; your writing is the knife. Criticism is the whetting stone against which you sharpen your stories.

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Truest Giveaway on Goodreads!


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Like an Anthem

man plays the guitar on the street. retro style.

What do you love about your favorite musician’s voice?

Click here for more about Truest!

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Tweet: “The song spread over him like a blanket and rushed forth like an anthem.” http://ctt.ec/FLb61+ #Truest #SilasHart

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Ultimate YA Book Boyfriend: Round Three

ultimate ya book boyfriend round III

Jonah Griggs vs. Tom Mackee

“He stops and looks at me. ‘I’m here because of you. You’re my priority. Your happiness, in some fucked way, is tuned in to mine. Get that through your thick skull. Would I like it any other way? Hell, yes, but I don’t think that will be happening in my lifetime.”
Jonah Griggs from Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta

“She’s tired and leans her head on his shoulder, which is the resting place for all their heads, but when Justine and Siobhan and Francesca use his body so shamelessly he doesn’t feel the need to turn his head and press his mouth against their hair.”
Tom Mackee from The Piper’s Son by Melina Marchetta

Gilbert Blythe vs. Sean Kendrick

“You do love me, Gilbert? You haven’t said you loved me in so long.”
“My dear, I didn’t think you needed words to know that. I can’t live without you.”
Gilbert Blythe in Anne of Ingleside by Lucy Montgomery

“Sean reaches between us and slides a thin bracelet of red ribbons over my free hand. Lifting my arm, he presses his lips against the inside of my wrist. I’m utterly still; I feel my pulse tap several times against his lips, and then he releases my hand.
‘For luck,’ he says. He takes Dove’s lead from me.
‘Sean,’ I say, and he turns. I take his chin and kiss his lips, hard. I’m reminded, all of a sudden, of that first day on the beach, when I pulled his head from the water.
‘For luck,’ I say to his startled face.”
Sean Kenrick in The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater

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Eight Themes

I wish I could remember where I read it– I’d have loved to link to the article!– but somewhere around the internet I read the suggestion to boil my novel down into 7-10 major themes and post them where I could easily see them.

As I write Mill City Heroes, these are the themes I keep on my radar in image form (my computer desktop’s background actually!):

themes mch

Clockwise from top left: poppies, winter, feline, slavery/freedom, red, Peter Pan, city (particularly Mill City, i.e. Minneapolis), ravens.

So, are you intrigued? Confused? A little of both?

I can’t wait to tell you more as this novel takes form!


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Spread Some TRUEST Love Today!

Would you consider re-blogging this post, sharing a link to it, or pinning/sharing/using one of the images below in your social media? #Truest

My debut novel Truest comes out on September 1st, and I couldn’t be more excited to introduce the world to these characters who have captured my heart! The highlight of 2014 for me was when I got an email from my editor that said:

I don’t know why it took me so long to finish this version. But I just did and all I can say is WOW. I just think it’s the kind of book that will change kids and adults, too–forever. Jackie–it’s just a beautiful book. You’ve written something meaningful, deep, thought provoking, sexy and uber-romantic.

To learn more about Truest— or to pre-order your copy, click here. FINAL MEET THE CHARACTERS FINAL BLOG BANNERTruest quote storm cell Truest alacrity truest baptism with website White genuine leather classical style sofa in vintage room with desk lamp

Fresh organic oranges halves  fruits on blue wooden background with copy space

man plays the guitar on the street. retro style.


red shoe truest


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Ultimate YA Book Boyfriend: Round Two

ultimate ya book boyfriend round II

Augustus Waters vs. Jonah Griggs

“Oh, I wouldn’t mind, Hazel Grace. It would be a privilege to have my heart broken by you.”
Augustus Waters from The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

“What do you think would happen if we kissed right here, right now?” he asks, digging his hands into the pockets of his khaki pants, grinning right back at me.
“I think it would cause a riot.”
“Well, you know me,” he says, lowering his head towards me. “Causing a riot is what I do best.”
Jonah Griggs from Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta

Park Sheridan vs. Tom Mackee

“Next time,” he said, “I’ll just say, ‘Eleanor, duck behind these bushes with me, I’m going to lose my mind if I don’t kiss you.’”
She didn’t move, so he thought it was probably okay to touch her face. Her skin was as soft as it looked, white and smooth as freckled porcelain.
“I’ll just say, ‘Eleanor, follow me down this rabbit hole…’”
He laid his thumb on her lips to see if she’d pull away. She didn’t. He leaned closer. He wanted to close his eyes, but he didn’t trust her not to leave him standing there.
Park Sheridan from Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell

“Don’t let anyone take care of you. Can you maybe leave that for me to do? I mean, take care of you? Feel free to take care of me in return… because I think I’ll need you to do that.”
Tom Mackee from The Piper’s Son by Melina Marchetta

Will Trombal vs. Gilbert Blythe

“Do you think people have noticed that I’m around?”
“I notice when you’re not. Does that count?”
Will Trombal from Saving Francesca by Melina Marchetta

“I have a dream,” he said slowly. “I persist in dreaming it, although it has often seemed to me that it could never come true. I dream of a home with a hearth-fire in it, a cat and dog, the footsteps of friends – and you!”
Anne wanted to speak but she could find no words. Happiness was breaking over her like a wave. It almost frightened her.
“I asked you a question over two years ago, Anne. If I ask it again today, will you give me a different answer?”
Still Anne could not speak. But she lifted her eyes, shining with all the love-rapture of countless generations, and looked into his for a moment. He wanted no other answer.
Gilbert Blythe from Anne of the Island by L.M. Montgomery

Four vs. Sean Kendrick

I feel the urge, familiar now, to wrench myself from my body and speak directly into her mind. It is the same urge, I realize, that makes me want to kiss her every time I see her, because even a sliver of distance between us is infuriating. Our fingers, loosely woven a moment ago, now clutch together, her palm tacky with moisture, mine rough in places where I have grabbed too many handles on too many moving trains. Now she looks pale and small, but her eyes make me think of wide-open skies that I have never actually seen, only dreamed of.
Four from Allegiant by Veronica Roth

I say, ‘I will not be your weakness, Sean Kendrick.’
Now he looks at me. He says, very softly, ‘It’s late for that, Puck.’
Sean Kendrick from The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater


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