By Stephanie Bearce
You bravely signed up for a critique at the conference.
It’s your dream editor!
Fingers and toes crossed, you go to the critique hoping she likes your manuscript.
Palms sweating, nervous chit chat.
Will she love it?
Will she offer a contract?
New writers often have daydreams that an agent or editor will love the manuscript they are critiquing so much that they will immediately offer a contract. Those of us who have been in the business for a bit longer know that dream is equivalent to winning the lottery. It can happen, unfortunately the odds are not in your favor.
But that marked up piece of paper you hold in your disappointed hand is a treasure map that can help you move forward on the path to publication. It’s a critique and you need to use it!
Here are five rules to help you get the most out of any critique:
Listen – If this is an in-person critique, go in prepared to listen to everything the critiquer has to share. She is an industry professional and she has expertise that can truly help you. Do not interrupt to try to explain your manuscript. Listen. And take notes! You’re going to want to remember the advice later!
Ask Questions – Go in prepared with questions you have about your project. Make a list and take it with you. This is your chance to pick the professional’s brain. Ask about markets, topics, sources, how to improve your work, or what are your next steps. If you are unclear about something she says – ask for clarification. The critiquer has the same goal you do – to make you a stronger writer.
Read – Once you have left the in-person critique, take time to read the written comments. Try not to feel defensive. It’s hard. She’s criticizing your baby. But remember the goal – publication! So, read it all – even the parts that hurt.
Set it aside – Once you have read the comments, set it aside for at least a week. Maybe longer. Do not jump into a total rewrite the next day. Let the ideas sit and simmer. Then go back and see which ones make sense for your vision of the manuscript. You do not have to take every piece of advice and implement it. But you should also be honest with yourself and recognize where your manuscript needs improvement.
Revise – After you have a good idea of the new direction you want for your manuscript – get back on that computer. Your project may need small tweaks or a complete rewrite. That is up to you! But smart writers take all the advice they can get. You never know when someone’s comments are going to spark an idea that will turn your story into a literary treasure.
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The Nonfiction Ninjas are a group of writers with diverse ideas and a strong belief in The First Amendment. The views expressed in each post are those of the author and may differ from others in the group.
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