If you don't ask...

Monday, February 11, 2019
Greetings for Wisconsin where it was 40 below and 3 days later raining, and today there's a thick blanket of snow everywhere. It's a great day for a lovely book, a warm cup of coffee, and some writing. Enjoy some deep thoughts!

I had a lovely employer who said "If you don't ask, you don't get" and in context, we were discussing everything from vacation, a pay raise, payments from customers, and better catering for company meetings. I think about this saying quite often as both a mother and a writer. As a mother, if you don't ask your children to do chores around the house, they're not just going to notice things need to be done and do them (sometimes our spouses are the same, but since Valentine's Day is this week, I won't discuss my husband's ability to walk right past a dirty sock and not pick it up...).

Now let's talk about asking in the writing world.

Do you want people to read your work 
and brainstorm ideas to make it better? 
Of course you do, so just ask. 

Do you want to know at what point 
in the story the reader got "hooked"?
Of course you do, so just ask.

Do you want to know which part of the 
story slowed down a bit? 
Do you want to know the first time 
the reader set the book down 
to get a cup of tea or take 
a bathroom break?
Of course you do, so just ask.

Do you want to know how someone 
felt after reading your book?
Of course you do, so just ask.

...the list goes on - you get the drift!

We can ask for early readers, reviewers, critique partners, etc...but if we don't specifically ask what it is we want to know, we may never get the answers we seek. When I am reading an absolutely fabulous book, I ignore my bladder, my dry throat, the laundry that needs folding, the toys on the floor, and I just read. I don't refill my water, I forget to drink my coffee, and I can't imagine moving from my seat. I've been known to read from cover to cover as if the book were all that matters in the world. That's when you know the author has talent! I've also been known to feel so connected to a character that I get to the 2nd last chapter and I put the book down because I don't want my relationship with the character to end; I want to drag out our parting as long as possible and my desire for connection can quiet my drive to find out how things ended. As an author, you should know those specifics, shouldn't you? Wouldn't you want to know that after the 3rd chapter I just couldn't go on? There are books so weighed down with inconsequential details and back story that I'm falling asleep...or so poorly edited I want to grab a red pen and send the book right back to be fixed. If you don't ask me about your book, I'm likely not going to give you this type of feedback. As a reader, you have most surely felt the same way? You've probably sat in silence not wanting to provide specific feedback.

As a reader - What if you were specifically asked? Would you provide those details about when the writing was best, when it was a bit boring, etc...?

As an author - What if you asked specific questions? Would you want to know when you're writing really pulled the reader in? When they became disengaged? When they wanted more?

If you don't ask, you don't get! 

Don't just ask for reviews! Reviews are important for selling books, but asking for specific feedback is important for improving your craft which will help with writing the next book - and the next - and the one after that!

What is your goal? What specific questions can you ask to help improve your writing?

Crystal is a secretary, council secretary, and musician at her church, birth mother and auntie, babywearing cloth diapering mama (aka crunchy mama), business owner, active journaler, writer and blogger, Blog Tour Manager with WOW! Women on Writing, Publicist with Dream of Things Publishing, Press Corp teammate for the DairyGirl Network, Unicorn Mom Ambassador, as well as a dairy farmer. She lives in Wisconsin with her husband and their five youngest children (Carmen 11, Andre 10, Breccan 5, Delphine 3, and baby Eudora who somehow turned 1 already), two dogs, four little piggies, a handful of cats and kittens, and over 230 Holsteins.

You can find Crystal riding unicorns, taking the ordinary and making it extraordinary, blogging, reading, reviewing, and baking here and at her personal blog - Crystal is dedicated to turning life's lemons into lemonade!


Angela Mackintosh said...

I do this in critique groups or when I trade feedback and I imagine it drives people nuts because I'm asking specific questions. I think it makes it easier though, too, because they don't have to think about what to critique, they can just answer my questions.

I never really thought about it, but it would be interesting to know when a reader was hooked or when they took a break or their favorite scene or when they felt uncomfortable or if they knew a twist was coming. There's so much to discuss in a book. Great post!

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