Saturday, May 26, 2012

Partners in Crime

By Julia Kanno (Guest Blogger)

First off, I want to thank Lisabet for having me here at her blog. I’m just starting out in the writing world as far as publishing under my own name and I haven’t really taken the time to dive into the marketing aspect of things yet. I’ve done lots of research, but I just haven’t taken a real step toward getting myself out there until now. And I must thank Lisabet for that. She so graciously offered me a guest spot on her blog. And I must say: I love this blog. It is one of the few that I have directly sent to my e-mail because she always seems to nab the coolest authors and now I’m one of them!

All right, enough with the girlish babblings and on to the topic at hand: crime. Well, more like partners in crime.

Most authors have either a few beta-readers or a critique partner and I’m telling you right now, those few people who offer you feedback on your work are absolutely invaluable. Yes, reader feedback is amazing, but critique partners and beta-readers are just as important, if not more so. 
Recently, I contracted my first story (first in a series) with Total-e-Bound Publishing and I know that wouldn’t have been possible if I didn’t have my handy-dandy Jenny and my Super Alix to the rescue.
Jennifer, my critique partner is amazing. She’s brutal, sarcastic and unbelievably funny. We’ve been critique partners for over two years now, and best friends almost as long. I mean, sheesh, I have her son’s artwork on my fridge.

That’s not to say we don’t have our differences. There are quite a few times we’re ready to wring each other’s neck and I’m no stranger to receiving comment boxes that say: “AHHHHH!!!!! What is this inane twittery, you twit!?!?”

And I love her for it.

I’ve always been open to criticism when it comes to my work. Now, that’s not to say I haven’t found a particularly high ledge alarmingly attractive once or twice after I’ve received a critique from her, but over time I’ve come to the realization that critique partners are important for more than just the “editing” portion of the partnership. Yes, every author needs a different level of help when it comes to copy and content editing, but critique partnerships give authors something I think is lacking amongst some of the “diamond district” of our industry. And that’s humility.
Every time my ass begins to get too big for my britches, Jenny does a great job of giving me a swift kick to remind me that I’m not the best thing since sparkly vampires. After which, she helps me up and encourages me to try again. I know “self-worth” is an issue for a lot of authors. Actually, I think it’s a demon for most creative people. Regardless, sometimes I think we let a bit of success go to our heads and some authors even drop their critique partners once they get their foot through the publishing door. I think that’s a mistake. As long as both parties are still benefiting from the relationship, I think that is something that needs to stay and continue to be nurtured.

I think if Nora Roberts had a critique partner telling her “my dear, Nora, you’re head hopping every two seconds,” the quality of her most recent releases might be different. Yes, I think editors are important. But I think an awesome critique partner is even better at pointing out when you’re starting to slip in terms of writing quality. And the best part is, they are with you every step of the way and get to watch you grow as an author. Jennifer and I have gotten to the point where we don’t really have to make most of the corrections in the text. Instead, we leave each other long notes of feedback, pointing out where we’re struggling and giving ideas on how we can fix it.

Now, when that’s done, I move on to my beta-reader. Alix does an amazing job of reading through my stories and letting me know if I’ve drifted toward the predictable. She catches all the stuff that Jennifer doesn’t and by the end of the process, I’m so excited to send of my new work that I’m practically jumping up and down as I hit “send.” Alix is also the person who reads my work as I’m writing it. She encourages me and pulls me out of bed some days. And since we’ve been working together, my word count per day has drastically increased. I swear, if she wasn’t my sister-in-law (something that happened after we’d been writing buddies for a while), I’d probably up and marry her.

The point of the matter is I think as authors it is important that we all learn to accept all kinds of criticism. And I think it’s especially important that some of those critics also be writers. Writers will dig deeper into your plot than any other person. I know I get twice as excited when another author tells me I blew them away. After all, for that to happen, I must have accomplished something they haven’t yet. I must have touched their stony writer hearts. It’s like a world famous comedian laughing a newcomer’s jokes. It’s positively soul cleansing.

I don’t care what anyone says: If you don’t have a beta-reader or a critique partner you’re missing out on 
one of the most fulfilling relationships an author can have.

Because of those two people I mentioned, I’m able to happily exclaim that my new release: No Strings Attached will be available for release September 3, 2012. I’m not going to bother with posting the blurb or anything like that and instead just leave a link to my website.

There you’ll be able to browse and read at your leisure.

I would like to end this little post by saying that: Lisabet is a true gem. She’s actually the kind of author I think most people don’t think exists. I mean, we all know, she’s not lacking in writing talent, but I’m talking about something different. I recently read a book of hers I didn’t care for. It made me angry. That’s how much I didn’t care for it, but regardless, I e-mailed her my reaction and she responded with politeness and warmth. Readers like me tend to have strong reactions to books, especially those dealing with the intimacies of a Dominance and Submission relationship. I went as far as to rant about “Barbie and Ken doing butt plugs and bondage” and she was kind enough to listen to my rant, offer her own insight and I’ve never been so impressed.

Criticism and stinging reviews hurt—believe me, I know they do. And yet, she handled herself with utter class. After I received her response, I suddenly realized that it didn’t matter whether I had liked that book in particular, I would always respect and commend her grace and willingness to accept criticism and feedback. And thus, I went and purchased a few more of her books. I haven’t read them yet, but if it turns out I don’t care for them either, it won’t matter. I won’t feel like I’ve wasted my money. As authors, we need to support one another through our endeavors as writing erotic fiction is a particularly treacherous breeding ground for cruelty.

That is my point: that regardless if your feedback comes from beta-readers, critique partners, your mom (in which case, I would love to hear how your “coming-out” about the kink you write occurred), it is always important to remember that we, as authors writing the most glorious kink since Deep Throat, know that no matter what we’re all partners in crime.

To learn more about Julia Kanno, please feel free to visit her website:

To learn more about Handy-Dandy Jenny Blackstream, please free to visit her website:

To learn more about Super Alix Richards, please feel free to visit her website:


Lisabet Sarai said...

Welcome to Beyond Romance, Julia!

I couldn't agree with you more. I just got back a crit from one of my partners, and he honed in on some motivational problems with my characters that I hadn't noticed at all.


aureliatevans said...

I have a beta reader for most of my fannish things, but she also takes a look at a few of my original work. Either way, she's been an invaluable person in my writerly growth, really helped me know what to look for. And I love her sense of humor. She's also helped me get accustomed to constructive criticism to the point where I rarely take editorial comments personally anymore. Which is invaluable for a writer, insecure lot that we are.

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