Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Love/Hate Wednesday


When authors follow instructions.

Most notably, submission instructions. I get plenty of submissions directly in my personal email, and guess what - just I like I state in the right sidebar on my blog, I delete them (after making sure they don't say "requested" or "conference" or "referral" anywhere of course). I am always shocked, too, how many people submit to my query box after a conference...when I give them my card and say to send directly to me!

I get it. There's lots of rules. Lots of things can go wrong. I don't hold it against anyone when they don't do things exactly right; but most absolutely do you stand out when you do. Or at least not inspire a frowny face. You don't want your submission to inspire a frowny face, even if that isn't held against you, right?


Competing with critique groups.

I think critique groups are incredibly important for polishing up your manuscript before you send to your agent or on submission. But I'll be blunt: I don't give a fig what your critique group tells you about your manuscript. If I'm telling you "this has got to go, I can't sell it like this" I absolutely hate hearing back "well my critique group says they think it's fine."

I'm not saying by any means that my word is final; I'm always open to collaboration on edits. There've been plenty of times an author has come back to me and said "well, I'd like to keep this for xyz reason." Because of course, if there IS a reason, it may be that other parts of the manuscript need to be tweaked in order to understand it. But that is a conversation I want to have with you, as the writer - not with your critique group!

In other words: don't use your critique group's "voice" as an excuse not to make an edit. If you don't like a suggestion, explain it in your own words. And if you trust your critique group's judgement on the marketability and edits needed for your manuscript above your agent's...well, there's a bigger problem to address: why?

But that's a can of worms for another post. ;)


  1. I've always had a hard time finding a compatible critique group. I had a good one, but one of the members wrote heavy-duty suspense and found my writing "shallow." Another great critique group broke up when half the members simply got bored with writing and moved on. I do find that critique groups can force you to follow the crowd rather than following your own inner instincts, and that can really hurt some writers.

  2. Stephanie, I think that's the sign of the wrong critique group. If you feel like a group is trying to force you to follow a certain style than it's not the right group. In my experience--I've had both good and bad experiences with critique groups--the best help you figure out the flaws of your manuscript without dictating how you should change it (e.g. your critique partners don't try to rewrite it, etc). That being said, not everyone is meant to belong to a critique group and its never worth sticking with a bad one just to be in one.

    1. I think so, Sleepy One! I started writing in the mid-90s and got caught in the big "writing trap," where you do everything BUT write because you fear the blinking cursor! But that suspense writer wrote very dark things and I wrote light, fluffy romantic comedies...not a good mix. She also was very blunt. The "This manuscript isn't as shallow as your work usually is" comment had me consulting another online group where I spent way too much time--and they said, "If it's affecting your writing, it's poison. Quit the group." So I did...and eventually I learned I didn't have to have a group consensus for every word I wrote and every career decision I made! :-)

  3. I LOVE this blog, especially the line--> I don't give a fig...
    Big smile on that one. Glad to be your newest follower,

  4. I avoid critique groups like the plague; between envy, rejection shock, and obscurantism, they're almost as bad as a social media habit. I do listen to the Starbucks table buzz on the prevailing winds (Spunky adventurous heroines are gold in YA; boys with the same resume will be pepper-sprayed and thrown off the premises-that sort of thing) but you have to have your own reliable compass and know how to navigate, eh, what? Kevin A. Lewis