Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Face to face.

Critiques. I've spoken about them before and in the end they are supposed to do one thing. Help us become better writers. For the most part I like critiques. The bad ones hurt but I rather know things now then when I query. The good ones boost the confidence. I like them because this is my classroom-- I'm learning and it's the only way I know where I stand. I do follow some self help books, but to me, doing is the only way I learn.

Most of the critiques I've gotten are via email which is great. I have a few CPs who help me tremendously. Their feedback is priceless. In fact, I don't think I would have made it this far without them.  My one CP and I meet every so often face to face to go over our stuff and brainstorm. This is even more helpful because we are talking it through. I can hear her tone of voice and see her expressions. Since my other CPs are spread across the country, we Skype every so often to go over our work and brainstorm. You get to talk things out and really hear what they thought.

I have had one agent critique which at the time made me feel like hiding in some mountain near the black forest but I got over it. I'm glad I did it because I know more now. It was via email so I didn't have to see this person which to me was a good thing. Not that I didn't want to meet them or see their expression, I was just embarrassed they had to read my mountain of mess.

On Saturday, I'm attending the Philly SCBWI conference with fellow blogger buddy and CP, Kelly. I'm glad she's coming with me because I'm getting a critique by an agent or editor--face to face. Dun dun dun da.  Yeah you hear that scary music. I'll admit I'm scared. I'm sure whoever is critiquing my sorry 10 pages is scared too. This will be my first agent/editor critique face to face so--yeah--I have to make the best of it.

Painting by Kaitlyn McCane (she coming with me too.)

Here is my current tactic on trying to remain calm. I'm looking at this as a learning experience. I'm no literary genius (we all know this) so I must put in the time and work my butt off. I'm trying to keep in mind that they will tell me what needs improving and I will go from there. Of course, I've had a nightmare or two where they take their red pen and put a big X on my pages shaking their head no but-- hey, I'm human.

So, I have been trying to come up with questions to ask to make the most of my fifteen minutes. Here is where I look to you for advice.

Any advice on how to make the most of my fifteen minutes?

Any calming techniques?

Any questions I should avoid asking? Any questions that are a must?

Thanks guys. Friday, I'm taking part in the experiment that Elana, Jen, and Alex are conducting. It should be interesting and fun. Oh and check out this contest!! Angela Ackerman you rock! Have a great day!


  1. I'm sure you'll do great, Christine.

    I had a crit with Ellen Hopkins this summer at the SCBWI LA conference. I was relieved that she wasn't an agent or editor since my first chapter had been substantially edited since I had mailed it in. I was embarrassed about that, plus I hadn't had much sleep. To top it off, my ADHD kicked in. I became overly excited and asked her sorts of questions, but she thought I was angry at her because she told me rewrite the novel into present tense (I actually loved her idea). Problem was, I wasn't angry, I was embarrassed at what an idiot I must have been sounding like. (I blush easily) That's when she realized I really did want to improve my ms, and I really was excited to hear what she had to say about it.

    So my advice? Get lots of sleep and don't get nervous. ;)

  2. As for calming, you already said you're going for a learning experience rather than the sole purpose of landing an agent. So there's no pressure! Right?

  3. Good luck! I'm sure it will go wonderfully--just remember that they're not critiquing you, they're just trying to help you make your work the best it can be. No need to stress!

  4. I wouldn't mention the word "sequel" right off the bat. Good luck.

  5. i think ALL crits should include the positive along with the negative. we HAVE to be able to see what we're doing right - otherwise we'd be calling the suicide hotline. and i never, ever think someone should crit another person's writing style. that's messing with voice, man!

    as far as the conference you probably already know NOT to jabber on and on about your book. if anyone asks what it's about - you give them your one sentence pitch (aka the elevator pitch). and that's it. if they want more they'll ask....and even then, keep that at a minimum!

    also - really important - focus your questions towards the agent. not about you. ask them why they became an agent, what they like most about it, etc. people love to talk about themselves. and it will show that you're not just about you - but about getting to know them too.

  6. Take notes. Ask questions about the critique and take notes. Don't try to convince them you're right. Act like you want to do what they say to do.

    And remember to breathe.

    Best of Luck!


  7. Good luck Christine!! You will do great :):):) I have no experience with this, but just remember that you have something unique to offer, believe that. Have confidence, You'll do awesome!

  8. I'm thinking when the conference is over, we should go out for a drink because we'll need it...oh, wait, I can't but you can! I'm SO glad that we are going together! I'm hoping I don't fall apart with whatever my agent/editor tells will be interesting, that's for sure!

  9. I'm sure you'll get some great feedback, but in the final analysis, trust your instincts as to what will help your mss and what might not. I've given crits at conferences a lot, and to tell the truth, I think I'm like a lot of others who do so. We read a bunch of the submissions quickly and make what are in effect, sometimes quick judgments. That doesn't mean they're wrong at all. Most professionals can spot the major problems immediately. The comments are usually on the "macros" and most of the time are accurate, I think. At least, everyone I know tries to be helpful and point out the things that could be improved. But, just remember a good writer became so because she was a good reader and already has a lot of knowledge--trust your instincts when push comes to shove. Almost always, it will serve you well.

    Good luck!

    Blue skies,

  10. This will sound weird, but find a private place right before it's your turn, and make your face smile - not a small smirk, but a giant happy smile. Seriously. It releases some kind of chemical that calms you and makes you feel a bit more confident. Hokey, but effective. :-)

  11. Oooh, exciting. I participate in a live critique group every other week. I've learned a couple of things.

    1. Make eye contact. Even if you're uncomfortable.

    2. Nod. This shows that you're listening. I like the idea of taking notes too. You want to give the impression that you're listening and will actually consider their thoughts when you have more time.

    3. It's okay to ask a clarifying question/offer a solution you think of. This is good dialog.

    4. Say thank you. And that you're looking forward to having some time stew through their suggestions in order to make your book stronger.

    I wouldn't:

    1. Defend your work.
    2. Argue.
    3. Act like you knew your work wasn't strong enough. I mean, why did you send it if you knew there were flaws? Don't act surprised they're giving you suggestions, but don't be like, "Oh, yeah, I knew that was a problem." Uh...then why didn't you fix it? You know?

    Okay, sorry. This is long.

  12. Sounds scary, I think it's so important to remember that they're there to help you and there to find new writers.
    Good luck! I'm sure you'll learn a ton.

  13. I would say just go with the attitude that you want to know what the critiquer thinks could be done to improve the manuscript. Listen. Then later decide what advice you think is useful and what you don't. I'm like everyone else; I want to be told "this is wonderful." But it usually isn't, and I have come to prefer honesty. If someone is willing to read my work, I really want to know what the problems are so I can fix them.

    Just try to relax. I remember Maria's line in The Sound of Music: "Strength lies in nights of peaceful slumber." !!!!

  14. p.s. Elana's pointers are right on!!

  15. ...have partaken in several critiques, but never live, which sounds interesting...potentially a bit intimidating, but the advantages of personal attention, right there for the taking, far outweighs the fear factor. It's all about the literary love, being shared and passed around:)

  16. Good luck! You know more now so you will do fine.

    Make eye contact
    Have a logline
    Be prepared to talk about another project if the time runs out or you're asked
    Remember to say thank you
    Take notes
    Write questions in advance and leave space for answers
    (My questions are: Was the MC believable? Did I set the scene? Was my dialogue strong? Did the excerpt fit the genre I set it for? What could be improved?)

    You don't even need my comment. Elana's comment is great.

  17. Good luck on your face to face! I know you'll do great! And where would any of us be without our CPs??

  18. You're going to rock it! Beacuse you're a rockstar!!! :) We love you and I can't wait to hear how awesome it felt!

  19. Congratulations on the appt.! I know it will go well.

  20. I wish you the best of luck, Christine! I know you'll do fantastic! :) I've missed you and your blog, but hopefully I'll be all caught up in the blogging world soon.

  21. Wow - best of luck Christine! I have no advice but of the ones I read I liked how Elana's kinda wrapped them all up together. Good luck and hope it goes great!

    On another note - I left an award on my blog for you. Hope you like. :)