Monday, August 30, 2010

So Call Me Crazy

As I am sure we have all noticed there are an abundance of competition reality shows out there. Have you ever watched your favorite - American Idol, So You Think You Can Dance, Top Chef, whatever - and thought about how hard it would be to have someone critique your effort like that? I mean, sometimes those judges can be harsh, right?

So call me crazy.

I actually love having my writing critiqued. I love looking at my work through other people's eyes. I especially appreciate it when I know someone is being 100% honest with me, whether they love or hate what I've done. Maybe it's because I started out singing and acting at a fairly young age and got used to 'getting notes' early on.

I remember sitting on the edge of the stage at the end of rehearsal and having the stage manger or assistant director hand me that little piece of paper with the list of what I needed to do better. It was definitely harder to hear the criticism when I was a teenager, but I got used to it. It didn't take long to understand that it wasn't personal, really. All the director was trying to do was have the best show possible. She/he was doing the whole cast and crew a favor by helping me to see what I obviously couldn't see from my perpsective. After all, I wanted the show to be good, too.

Anyway, the volume of critiques I've gotten through high school, college and into adult life has left me with a very thick skin and a very eager heart when it comes to hearing what others think of my work. I am happy to be grown up enough to know how to filter those opinions so I can use what I feel rings true and toss the rest.

Keeping that in mind you can understand how THRILLED I am to have recently registered to attend my first writer's conference. Aside from all the other cool stuff happening there I signed up for a one on one critique by one of the panel members of the first 15 pages of my manuscript and to have my *query letter discussed by the whole panel in front of all the conference attendees. I am stoked! This panel consists in part of a very successful young adult author, an agent who is near the top of my 'want to query' list, and the editor from Random House/Delacorte who handled the last two Harry Potter books for American distribution. Woo hoo! Even if they rip it to shreds it will be great, because then I'll know what I need to do to get better. If I was more computer literate I would even add a widget on my blog to count down the days until the conference.

So, go ahead. Call me crazy. Are you crazy, too? Or is it just me?

*A query letter is a dreaded monster of ancient date. Through the ages it has been known to cause normally sane, even reserved writers to end up on the brink of madness. How, you ask? By forcing them to distill their precious 50,000 - 80,000 (or even higher) word work of art into a one page summary which needs to include word count, genre, author credits/qualifications/contact information, a lovely paragraph of personalization to the agent/editor receiving it, and a synopsis of the book - all in about 300 words. Oh yes, and let's not forget that it's best if it reflects the mood and writing style of the actual novel. And of course, it must be absolutely perfect when it comes to grammar and typing. I dare you to ask any writer how many times they have rewritten their query. Personally, it has been so many times I don't even know the answer to that question.


Valerie Ipson said...

Good for you--a conference and critique sessions!!! Definitely not for the faint of heart! You sound totally ready!!

Kristin Baker said...

Your query letter description is spot on. LOL I can't remember how many times I've rewritten mine either (there was actually a time I kept count!), and I bet my current revision is far from the last.

I often get this innocent question about my book: "Are you going to get it published?" If only it were that easy!!

Joan Sowards said...

I don't think you are crazy about wanting honest critique. We can learn a lot from what others say about our writing, and learning the art of writing is a continuous process. The worst kind of critique is for the critiquer to say, "It's nice."