Wednesday, September 28, 2005
Mascots and Critique Groups and Who Knows What Else
Well. You BGs put me to shame. You came up with so many ideas yesterday. Thank you, thank you for thinking when I couldn’t. Sometimes I just get brain dead.
First, we have a new acronym. High time, don’t you think? BGU. Bloggee University. Gotta love it. Of course our theme song is “Stayin’ Alive.” Goodness knows that’s hard to do when you’re a novelist. Especially at deadline time. They don’t put the “dead” in that word for nothin’. Our mascot? Somebody said , “Ooh, hope it’s not a spider.” Well, of course it’s a spider, what else? Anybody got a better, more fitting idea? After Violet Dawn comes out, our mascot could be a black mamba, but, hey, would that really make you feel any better?
With all the suggestions/questions to respond to, it’ll take awhile. Good thing. I don’t have to think of another topic for days. Yay! Today, I’m going to respond to some of the shorter issues. Then we’ll take one of the bigger ones and start tackling it tomorrow.
First, I want to respond briefly to LaShaunda’s question about revising a manuscript so it’s ready for submission. That is a little question with an absolutely huge answer. Revising means making it better. There could be a million and one ways to make a manuscript “better,” depending upon the weaknesses within it. LaShaunda, if you’re new to this blog, I suggest you go back to, oh, around June (after we ended our NES—Never Ending Saga) and read through the posts up until now. We’ve covered quite a few techniques that may help you. Also, in general, I always advise writers to submit to an agent first before sending to publishers—a good, solid, reputable agent with experience in the market. (Unless you’ve gotten the go-ahead from a publisher at a conference to submit your material.) The process for finding an agent is a good sounding board for the readiness of the manuscript. If the work is publishable, you’ll find an agent to represent it. If no agent takes it on, you know the manuscript needs more work, and meanwhile you haven’t shot through all the publishing houses you’d like to send it to.
Now, Lynette E., who ran into the editor at the airport—I have a word for you. Send in the manuscript. What do you want next, a bolt from heaven?
Suzan asked about critiquing groups. They can be wonderful and they can also be nightmares. People have had vastly different experiences. ACFW runs a great critique group program. If you’re a member of ACFW and wanting to get into a critique group, go for it. You’ll find encouragement and friendship there as well as help with your writing. When the group works right. If personalities don’t mix, or the critiquing you’re getting just doesn’t sit right with you, find a new group. I know quite a few BGs are in critique groups that have really meshed well.
A possible problem with a critique group is when everyone’s pretty much at the same level. How do you help each other improve in writing? Well, folks at the same level can still help each other. One person may have studied how to handle speaker attributes, for example. Another may have bought the CD for some workshop on backstory or tone or setting. One way a group can become more effective is to divvy up the learning. Have one person really study up on how to handle description, and have another study dialogue. Then report to each other during meetings and within the critiques. Also, in general, simply having a pair of fresh eyes read your work can really help. Others will see things in our work we can’t see, because we’re too close to it.
It’s sometimes good to have a mentor in the group—someone who’s published and way ahead of the others in the learning curve. The inherent problem there is that this person becomes the “last word,” and that shouldn’t be the case. Everyone—even a brand new writer—can come up with good suggestions for improvement. Think back to our editing of the AS (action scene). Many of you made suggestions for editing, and some of those were things I’d missed. Together, we all worked on that scene.
Another positive thing about a critique group is that it helps you develop that thick skin we authors must have. It’s hard hearing what’s wrong with our work. We just want people to read our stuff and love, love, love it! Learning how to listen to another’s opinion is a tough but good lesson. Trust me, you’ll be listening to lots of opinions as your book goes through the editing process at a publishing house.
Who out there is in a critique group? Is it working? Have you been in a past one that didn’t work? Do you have a way of dividing up assignments for learning particular techniques?
Check back tomorrow. We'll tackle description. Or maybe marketing. Or maybe one of the other ideas y'all threw my way.