Language vs Story and Some Rambles

Screen shot 2014-05-07 at 8.48.07 AM


So. I saw this the other day and may have snorted in a very non-cute way because I totally disagree. And what’s funny, is that I used to totally agree. I used to burn through books in an evening. OFTEN. Now, I only want to read books that are good enough that I WANT to slow down and enjoy the words the author wrote.

Of COURSE this is my right, and OF COURSE a lot of people would disagree, but it’s gotten me thinking about a lot of things.

My writing has changed drastically from my first published book. Drastically.

The other day I sat in front of “my” bookshelf (the one with all the good stuff on it) and opened a few of my favorites from years ago. And a few more. And… I realized that if I started reading those books now, I probably wouldn’t have made it past page three. Because without strong language and good writing, only a handful of people are going to continue reading and enjoy the story. Or maybe a LOT of people will still enjoy the story.

I’m just not one of them.

I would rather read a book that 90% character study than BIG IDEA if the writing is good.

And sometimes the BIG story and the GORGEOUS writing come together and make something amazing. I just finished The Archived by Victoria Schwab, and the writing was just amazing. The story was amazing. I’m in the middle of Just One Day by Gayle Forman, and WOW. Writing meets great story. My list of books where fantastic writing meets great story is pretty long. My list of great writing and pretty good story is even longer.

I guess what it comes down to is that I’ve been spending more time on craft than I ever have before. Is it slowing me down while I write? Yep. Is it making writing a bit more difficult? Yep. Is it worth it? HOLY CRAP YES. I want people to read my books and think – Jolene’s books just keep getting better.

BUT, of course that won’t happen for everyone.

This is just been on my mind a lot lately b/c I used to burn through a first draft in 2-6 weeks, and I think the time of me speed-writing is over, and right now, I’m just trying to be okay with that 😉

What’s been on your mind lately?

~ Jolene




Conferences, Critiques, Beware the Group Dynamic, and the Art of the NOD AND SMILE…

I LOVE writing conferences.


Sharing space w/ people who get what it’s like to have a writer’s brain?


But, a really interesting topic was posed on the LDS Storymakers Conference page:

How to give and take good critique, whether it’s in a group or one on one. I’ve sat in critique groups where little was accomplished because either it was all praise or the writer felt the need to defend their writing. Just a thought.


A thought I have thoughts on!

How to give a good critique – Honestly, I think this is where you need to put your people skills to good use.

At THIS point in my writing career, I can take it. I’ve heard my agent and my crit partners say – you can do better. Your book won’t sell this way. When I first started, certain kinds of comments would have DEVASTATED me. So, I’d really try to gauge by the quality of the writing AND the personality of the person, what you think they can handle. At the same time. Honesty is key. You won’t do anyone any favors by telling them their book will sell in its current state, when you don’t think it will. BUT when I know a book is a mess, and I know the person can’t take that harsh criticism, I make a few comments on things that really need to be changed, emphasize that I’m one opinion among many, and then find something I loved.

For the people in my publication primer class? I know they’re at that point where they really NEED the kind of feedback that will hopefully get them published. That requires a little more direct honesty 😉

If someone gets defensive? There’s only so much you can do. I’m pretty good at being like – “Well, this is getting awkward, why don’t we move on!” And then smiling really big 😉 And again, you could find something you enjoyed to help appease that person.

How to take a critique – 

FIRST OFF – remember that it’s ONE PERSON’S OPINION. I’ve had many pass letters, and SO many of them completely contradict each other. You need to sift through the information you’re given, and decide what works best for YOU AND YOUR STORY. Do not lose yourself in the crits of others. Also, if you know you won’t use something, but don’t want to be rude, nod and smile. I’ve gotten really good at saying – THANK YOU SO MUCH!! And then doing what I like. However, if several (or more than one) person says the same thing, it might be worth looking at.

Also – beware the group dynamic. Sometimes when one person says something negative, people jump in. Don’t be offended. This is what happens in groups. Also – don’t do this to other people!! lol. On the same token, when someone loves a MS, people tend to jump on that, too. YAY if it’s yours, but I’d really push them to ask some hard questions – maybe about things that happen later in the book? Questions they want answered in your MS based on the first pages. What they think is going to happen next. You can do this for someone else as well. Make sure they’re getting feedback. That’s one way to do it when first pages really are stellar.

If someone’s MS is being beaten up in a group setting, try to boost them. There will ALWAYS be something good to say about a MS, so try and find it.

As for one-on-one?

Most of the same stuff applies. ANYONE can pull me aside at Storymakers and ask my opinion on pages and/or query letters. I LOVE doing that stuff. Yes, I’m aware I might have just made myself SUPAH busy 😉

But again, this is MY opinion, based on MY experience, and nothing more.

I think that’s such an important thing to remember.



Be nice.

And have a fantabulous time 😉

~ Jolene

P.S. For more information on this conference (where I get to teach) go HERE 😀