Monday, June 30, 2008

Simon Cowell I Am Not

Tip of the Day: Oh, go ahead and order that pizza for dinner. Have you ever regretted ordering a pizza?

My online critique group has an opening and we've advertised for a writer to fill it. We posted messages describing the group on the SCBWI and Verla Kay message boards. The applications have been coming in steadily, along with the writers' backgrounds and writing samples.

I'm so impressed by the quality of the writing we're receiving. Surely this can't be representative of the slush pile. Aren't we always told things like 90% of the slush is unreadable? I want to read all the stories we're getting. I'm going to have a hard time picking a favorite. How do editors pick only a few of the books they receive for the handful of slots open in a publishing season?

I'm attributing it to the places we posted: SCBWI and Verla Kay's Blueboards. If a writer is serious enough to be looking for a critique group with defined deadlines and reading the message boards regularly ... maybe that winnows out a lot. Reading our high-quality applications has confirmed for me the value of putting "SCBWI member" on a query letter. I know some editors and agents have said that doesn't make a big difference to them, but I have now become a believer in it.

But I'm not an editor. I don't have to pick a manuscript with an eye to future sales figures. I want a critique partner. This is a great opportunity for me to think of what I'm looking for in a new critique partner.

And that's hard to say. The critter relationship develops over time. It takes a while to get in a groove with matching my critiquing style to someone's writing style and vice versa. If you needed a new critique partner right away, what would you look for?

This is what I've decided on:

-- someone with enthusiam. This is a novel writing group, and it takes a lot of enthusiam to see a novel through the long process.

-- someone with faith in himself or herself. Because you can't see through the long process without that either.

-- someone with discipline. Or else that novel will never get written.

I've noticed that these are all long-term attributes, which might be hard to spot in a writing sample. Can I read a writing sample and spot enthusiasm, faith, and discipline? Is anyone reading my writing looking for enthusiasm, faith, and discipline, proving I'd be great to work with in the long run? Oh, great, one more aspect of my writing for me to worry about!

-- Kate, Miss Apprentice Writer


DeenaML said...

Hopefully you can tell how enthusiastic, faithful, and disciplined the writer is based on their application letter if not their writing sample.

Then again, if they are an excellent story teller, they could totally lie in their letter and come across as fab when really they are a lazy slacker.

But if they write so well that you are convinced of their greatness, then maybe you want them in the group anyway! :)

Ghost Girl (aka, Mary Ann) said...

LOL, D! This sounds great, Kate! Now it makes me want to apply...

I have never been in a crit group. When DD was young, my life was a bit too unpredictable. Now things should be in a rhythm, but true to the form of life...they're not.

You definitely want someone who can commit to deadlines and who is willing to spell out the truth when necessary...nicely, of course!

You definitely posted in the right places, and I am sure that's why you're seeing such good quality. Good luck!

Anonymous said...

I love this post, Kate. Especially the ending. You have such great humor!

Emily Marshall said...

Kate, this would be really hard to narrow it down with lots of good choices. I'm sure you all will find the right fit in the end. Sometimes with this stuff I think it's a matter of following your gut.