Posts Tagged ‘critique’

Going on RIGHT NOW, a wonderful auction organized by C.T. Adams to benefit Hurricane Sandy victims.  Lots of amazing items, like autographed books and manuscript critiques, and more on the way.  Items included are by Carol Nelson Douglas, Brenda Novak, Jim Butcher, Shannon Butcher, CT Adams, Rachel Caine, Carrie Vaughn, Linnea Sinclair, Charlaine Harris & Jade Lee/ Kathy Lyons…  You can help people out and knock off your holiday shopping list, all in one fell swoop!

Lots of great NaNoWriMo advice floating around Twitter, much of it revolving around the truism that once you finish those 50,000 words (or however much you’ve been able to accomplish), you have not =finished= the book.  First, 50,000 words is often too short to be considered a novel, depending on the age group for which you’re writing.  Second, a novel is so much more than a first draft.  I’m asked all the time, “I’ve finished my novel.  Now what?”  My response is always to find a critique partner or group and workshop/revise the heck out of it.  I suggest critiquing because often we’re too close to our own work to see it’s flaws.  We know what we meant, so we don’t necessarily know when we’ve been unclear.  We won’t always call ourselves on the tough stuff or even see that there’s something we’ve shied away from until someone points it out.  Once we know, we can’t unknow.  Oh, we can do denial, but that’s never helped anyone deal with the problems at hand.  That’s not to say that all criticism will be useful.  You do have to run it all through your own filters, but listen with an open mind and approach the manuscript with the attitude that you’re going to take the time and expend the effort needed to make it not just acceptable, but sensational.  Not just done, but done right.

Now, the above is not a lead in to my next note.  I don’t think you have to pay for critiques necessarily.  However, Publishing for Vision & Hearing is holding an auction to raise money for the Foundation Fighting Blindness and the Deafness Research Foundation.  Many great authors, editors and agents (including me) have donated critiques to benefit these great causes.  So, if you’re so inclined, stop by and see if you want to place a bid or help us spread the word.

I saw a post recently on Facebook (one of those groups I seem to get automatically subscribed to whether I want to be there or not but decided to check out) where a woman said something like, “My daughter received a rejection saying the agent didn’t connect with the plot.  What the heck does that mean?”  I was so tempted to answer, but that way lies madness.  However, it does make a heck of a blog topic.

Here’s the thing: agents receive hundreds and hundreds of queries a week.  Our job includes reading these to see whether we’d be interested in reading further, to offer a “yes” or a “no” about reviewing additional material.  It’s not to offer critique.  We couldn’t possibly critique, say, 300 queries a week and still agent.  It’s just not possible.  When we do offer a response, it means that we thought your query deserved our going the extra mile.  Does it mean you didn’t deserve the extra mile if we didn’t comment personally?  No, it might mean that we’re busy or that our assistant reviewed it for us and didn’t feel that the query needed our attention, whether because it wasn’t ready yet for prime time, wasn’t in a genre we represent or whathaveyou.  I was surprised at the mother’s what the hell? sort of response to the agent’s comment, since pinpointing the plot as a problem area does say something about the reason that particular query failed for him or her.  It doesn’t mean the next agent won’t connect with the story.  Could it have been more specific—the plot wasn’t terribly original or didn’t have enough suspense or insert reason here?  Sure.  But, critiques are not part of our job description, except for those authors we’re already committed to working with.

When I started out in publishing, I wanted to help everyone.  I was gung ho about giving the most helpful responses I possibly could.  You know what nipped that in the bud?  Most people don’t want to hear it.  The writers who make it want constructive criticism so that they can hone their craft and be all they can be.  However, others just want to hear that they’re the greatest thing since sliced bread.  Anything else, and they’ll argue.  You heard me, argue.  You get more than a few of those and start to decide it’s not worth the grief.  Yes, we get thank-yous as well, and we truly appreciate those.  It’s good to know when we’ve made a difference in someone’s writing or career.  However, once we feel that sense of diminishing returns, well, that gung ho attitude gives way in the face of all the other work we have to get done and which we know is certain to be appreciated.

I’m so tempted to close with “And that’s how Sue sees it” from Glee, but, well, agents already get a bad wrap, and as much as I like Sue Sylvester, I wouldn’t want to be her.  For one thing, I loathe tracksuits.