Recently I’ve found myself commiserating with Scriva members and with my writer buddies on Twitter about the waiting game. I don’t know what I’d do without their knowing nods, the shared irritation, and the “keep the faith” tweets. This business can be crazy-making.
So I was excited to find (via my Tweeps, of course) this great blog post by agent Natalie Lakosil. She says everything I would say (except my recommendation of Ralph Keyes amazing THE WRITER’S BOOK OF HOPE). Here’s an except and a link to the entire post.
How to Survive WAITING by Natalie Lakosil
…and waiting. And…waiting.
Before you ask – oh yes. Agents wait too. Sure, we may be relatively calm about it – we resist the urge to pick up the phone and eagerly ask…well?? Resist the “just checking in!” emails until a reasonableamount of time has passed. Don’t DM our editor friends just PLEADING for an update.
But we are equally as excited about the work we put into the submission world as any writer – and we go equally bat s**t crazy with stalking urges during the “waiting to hear back” process (well…I suppose I shouldn’t speak on behalf of ALL agents…maybe I’m just terribly impulsive and impatient and oh god what if it really DOES suck and I’m just kidding myself here and would it REALLY be so bad just to email NOW or maybe I should start submitting some more just to even out the numbers again but what IF I get an offer and I guess I can wait one…more…day……)
Regardless of who you are in the writing world, waiting sucks.
Click here to read the rest.
I challenge you to give that question some thought. The answer may surprise you. The answer may change. My own answers may help you attack the question.
I have gone to a paid manuscript critique hoping to be acquired. I was new at this business. I’d worked hard on my story (a picture book manuscript that has yet to see the light of day). I was psyched when Big New York Agent (aka BNYA) was assigned my piece. I sat down and the first thing he said was that no one wanted any more ugly duckling stories and it was poorly written (as far as he could tell from skimming it in the two minute interval between the previous victim and myself) and that I should toss that thing in the trash. I rallied with some questions about nonfiction (my other genre at the time) and our little tete-a-tete finished up with BNYA saying something like, “Well that’s a cool idea assuming you could write it, but judging from this manuscript, you can’t.” Ouch! (P.S. Now I have a Nice New York Agent known as NNYA, who pulled me out of the slush pile. I’ll keep him!)
I have gone to a paid manuscript critique to get ten-minute access to the brain of a publishing professional. I survived the horror of BNYA and figured out that the beauty of the conference critique with agents and editors is the opportunity to get their unique perspective. It’s not the place to get in-depth critique on a manuscript. Instead, you get to see your manuscript filtered through a brain that has been through the slush piles. She’s seen what’s being acquired and what’s not. She knows what’s trending, what’s unique, and where your book might (or might not) fit. You should believe that editors and agents really can tell a LOT about your entire 90K word novel from the first ten pages. Pay attention to the off-hand comment. I had one editor tell me that she was keen my idea of a updated version of a Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court. Huh? My novel didn’t go that way at all, but I realized that I had used the word “knight” meaning that my MC would become a champion in his new world, but there was nothing medieval about the universe. I changed “knight” to “archer” and that change of word and mindset altered the entire novel for the better.
I have asked someone to read a manuscript hoping to be praised and encouraged. There is nothing wrong with this. Sometimes we need a pep talk and a high five. When new writers ask me to read something I try to sense the vibe behind the question. Are they wavering with this piece? Do they wonder if it is worth the effort of finishing? Sometimes what we need to hear is YES! Finish the thing! Are there things to work on? Sure. But right now, believe in it. Finish it.
I have hoped for insight into problems I couldn’t figure out how to solve. I often have very specific directions for the Scrivas when I hand over a manuscript. Most recently, I was struggling with the POV in the Angel Punk novel. I asked for them to focus on that piece of the puzzle. Good critique partners can offer multiple solutions to manuscript issues. Often that will help you focus in on the right one for you.
I have sent manuscripts hoping for the toughest of tough love. Just today, I got back comments on the first 2/3 of Angel Punk from the other writers on the team. (Hence the inspiration for this post.) I have to admit that I wish they’d been a little harder on me. Seriously. I’m glad that they are feeling good about the way the novel is shaping up, but I know how much work it needs, and I was ready for a lot more meat. I’m new to the team so they might be being careful not to scare me off, but I told them they were pussycats (those big guys) compared to the Scrivas. The thing about the in-depth and gloves-off critiques of the Scrivas is that when they do praise something – and they always do – I feel like I’ve won a marathon. When the Scrivas say I’ve done well then, dammit, I’ve nailed it!
What do you want from a critique?
Agent Sarah LaPolla at Curtis Brown, Ltd. wrote a great blog post on how to pick good beta readers aka critique partners for your work.
Our goal at Viva Scriva is to help you build a tight-knit, effective critique group that will be your foundation from first draft/first book to the profound missive you are scrawling on your deathbed in blood…
Oh, sorry, I got a little caught up there!
But… while you are building the aforementioned group of bloodwriters, finding a partner to exchange manuscripts with is a great way to begin. See our post on that topic here.
Sarah LaPolla suggests we avoid:
The Casual Reader
First Draft Readers
Read the full text here. It’s a good one!