Ashley Franklin

Critique Cheat Sheet

frustrated woman

In the most recent installment of things that I’m doing instead of rebuilding my website (Don’t judge me.), I made a Critique Cheat Sheet! Here it is as a Google Doc.

So, why did I make it? I’ve been teaching at the college level for nearly ten years, and it never fails that peer reviews/ critiques get the most gripe from students. I thought it was just a student thing. Then, I started doing a bit of my own writing. Honestly, I was shocked when I noticed that many of my writing peers aren’t all that fond of it either.

While it’s totally possible to critique your own work, there is something undeniably magical about getting another perspective on your work. There’s the benefit of another point of view–someone bringing a different and fresh perspective thanks to their unique experiences. You get to see how someone relates and reacts to what you have written. This is true for academic and non-academic writing.

I believe that part of the anxiety surrounding critiques is not knowing where to start and not wanting to hurt someone’s feelings. (Hmmm…”How Not to Be in Your Feelings During a Critique” will likely be my second Critique Cheat Sheet.)

I hope that this first Critique Cheat Sheet helps to ease some of those anxious feelings. Let me know if you do decide to give it a try!

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Tinkering around with a new revision strategy

I wrote a picture book story of Black Creole girl a while ago. The few editors that responded did like it, but they either a) weren’t in love with it enough to buy it OR b) wanted me to up the stakes.
One particular editor commented that as she read it, it made her want to get up and dance. This is actually my favorite piece of criticism so far. It stuck with me.
Last week, I decided to dust off the manuscript and try it again. I printed it out and took notes directly on it. I made a list of things that I wanted the new manuscript to do. I went through with my trusty pen and crossed out everything that I didn’t think would help  to reach my list of manuscript goals.
I have about four sentences left, and they’re still not fully exempt from the chopping block. I even changed the title! Was it hard to get rid of that much text? I’ll admit that I did pout for like two minutes. I got over it though.
I feel fortunate that I”m not one of those people who gets extremely attached to their writing. Did I love this manuscript enough to revisit it? Yes. I guess that does show some attachment. However, I’m not so attached to it that I’ll horde words just for the sake of keeping them, especially if they’re not beneficial.
I’m sorry! I haven’t touched upon the title of this post yet. I mentioned that the editor mentioned liking the sound of the manuscript. So, that’s one area of focus I’m really trying to bulk up. Remember the cartoon Madeline? I loved how it sounded as a kid, so I’ve started listening to old YouTube episodes of it as I do my revisions.
Will this land me an agent or result in a sale? I have no idea, but I”m having fun. Never stop having fun on your writing journey.

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I got a critique that hurt my feelings.

So, here’s what happened. I’d written something that I thought was great. Like…every time that I read over it, I expected some sort of holy light to shine down on it. Real talk. I am just that ridiculous.
So, I sent it over to my faves at Rate Your Story, and it came back with some straight to the point feedback, definitely no compliment sandwich in sight, and a score of 6. 6?! I friggin love this story, and 10 is the lowest score possible. How dare they give me a 6. Don’t they know I have a book coming out? I know what I’m doing!
Nope! I do not. And to be honest, I had to laugh at myself. The whole reason I was extremely eager to send the story in for feedback is because I’m trying out different genres. (Disclaimer: I’ve taken PB, CB,and MG courses, so I’m going into this totally blind.) But, as I’m sure you know, executing what you’ve learned when crafting your own story and really making it your own is completely different that reading some text from a class and being like “Oh yeah. I totally get that.”
So, I spent an hour or so being bitter, and then I printed out the feedback sheet. I printed out my story, and then I got excited. I underlined different parts of the feedback that I thought were spot-on and took notes about possible changes to make and where.
That’s the thing. Feedback should challenge you. At the end of the day, yes, I am the writer and the final decision is mine regarding what changes to make. However, a good writer will take the time to truly assess what will make the manuscript stronger.
I tell my students this all of the time. Feedback isn’t meant to hurt your feelings. It’s to help you grow. It either affirms things about your writing or challenges them.
Honestly, this set of feedback made me wish I knew who’d actually given it. I’d write them a note letting them know that their comments made me pout but then push harder. Thanks.
Oh, and do I recommend Rate Your Story for critiques? I do. I’m a fan. Honestly, I’m currently saving my coins to buy another year of membership. Besides, they did give me some solid feedback on the manuscript that I did end up selling (hoping we can soon get another dose of that magic potion brewing).
And with that, I’m off to do some revisions.

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Writer's Life: Waiting, more waiting, and then anxiously waiting.

Hey, I’m all about honesty. If you’ve read even one of my blog posts before, you should be well aware of that. So, now I want to have another one of our good old sit-downs where we take a moment and I hit you with a truth bomb.
I am no less anxious now than I was when I didn’t have an agent. I still check my emails an unnatural amount of times during the day.
I know that may seem a little hard to believe, but it’s 100% true. How can this be? It’s simple. Having an agent has opened the doors for my work to be seen by editors and publishing houses that I typically would not have access to. (Yay!) Having an agent gives me some muscle, if you will, a support system, and a sounding board.
Having an agent has not given me access to a magical fast lane in which my work ascends to the top of an editor’s email queue and said editor then falls over herself at the chance to bask in the glow of my manuscript.
Nope! I still anxiously await to get good news. Even the good news that I wait for has changed. While I would love to only get showered with contracts, it is also a treasure when an editor takes some time out to offer notes on a manuscript and/or even agrees to review it if I’m interested in making some changes.
Waiting is hard at any stage of the writing journey. If it helps, know that you’re not waiting alone. And while you are waiting, use your time wisely. Hone your craft. Experiment with your writing. Do a bit of reading. Take a class. Take a minute away from writing and live. (Yes, imagine the fresh influence on your writing when you’ve had an awesome experience.)
What’s really helped me? I’ve buddied up with other writers who are pretty much on the same leg of this journey, and help encourage each other. We vent to each other. We support each other. We pretty much remind each other that we’re not alone. In all honesty, they are my anxiety cushion so that when I reach out to my agent, I seem like I have it halfway together.
Find a buddy, and buckle up. The path to publication is an unpredictable ride.

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Writer’s Life: Waiting, more waiting, and then anxiously waiting.

Hey, I’m all about honesty. If you’ve read even one of my blog posts before, you should be well aware of that. So, now I want to have another one of our good old sit-downs where we take a moment and I hit you with a truth bomb.
I am no less anxious now than I was when I didn’t have an agent. I still check my emails an unnatural amount of times during the day.
I know that may seem a little hard to believe, but it’s 100% true. How can this be? It’s simple. Having an agent has opened the doors for my work to be seen by editors and publishing houses that I typically would not have access to. (Yay!) Having an agent gives me some muscle, if you will, a support system, and a sounding board.
Having an agent has not given me access to a magical fast lane in which my work ascends to the top of an editor’s email queue and said editor then falls over herself at the chance to bask in the glow of my manuscript.
Nope! I still anxiously await to get good news. Even the good news that I wait for has changed. While I would love to only get showered with contracts, it is also a treasure when an editor takes some time out to offer notes on a manuscript and/or even agrees to review it if I’m interested in making some changes.
Waiting is hard at any stage of the writing journey. If it helps, know that you’re not waiting alone. And while you are waiting, use your time wisely. Hone your craft. Experiment with your writing. Do a bit of reading. Take a class. Take a minute away from writing and live. (Yes, imagine the fresh influence on your writing when you’ve had an awesome experience.)
What’s really helped me? I’ve buddied up with other writers who are pretty much on the same leg of this journey, and help encourage each other. We vent to each other. We support each other. We pretty much remind each other that we’re not alone. In all honesty, they are my anxiety cushion so that when I reach out to my agent, I seem like I have it halfway together.
Find a buddy, and buckle up. The path to publication is an unpredictable ride.

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