Saturday, August 30, 2008

Preparing for Critique Sessions

EA, I will be attending a writer's conference that features a lengthy one-on-one critique session. The mentors at this conference are known to look over other manuscripts, apart from the one submitted with the application. Of course, I plan on polishing several manuscripts as best as I can before the event. I also started to research the editors, agents, and authors on the list of mentors. I thought it would be useful to know what books they have edited and to read some of these books. It became unwieldy, and almost creepy -- I found out about one editor's softball achievements in college and that another dated George Clooney. (Or maybe not.) But anyway, I am wondering what is the advisable course of preparation for a one-on-one critique? Just polishing manuscripts, or does it help to know a bit about the mentors as well, other than what's provided on the bio sheet at the conference? Thanks.
1. DON'T reveal that you found personal information about the editor on the internet. Some of us have stalkers. Some of us don't. But none of us want them, and we're all sensitive to the possibility.

2. DO research the editor's publishing house/imprint. Don't just think about what they do publish, but what they don't publish.

3. DO get your work in the best shape you can, so that you'll get the most accurate and useful feedback.

4. DON'T think of this as a pitch session. You aren't there to sell a manuscript. You're there to get an industry-side viewpoint on the manuscript's strengths and weaknesses. Think of it as an opportunity for creative growth (not financial).

5. DO think of questions you might ask the editor. This is your time with her, so use it to your best advantage by asking about the things you want to know.

6. Questions NOT to ask:
  • "Do you want this manuscript?" (Instead: "May I send you this manuscript after I've considered your revision suggestions?")
  • "Will you respond personally if I do?" (I don't know yet. If I see the revision and really wish I could take it on, but I can't, then yes, I will probably respond personally. If it's just not connecting with me as strongly as I want it to, then I won't feel an obligation to make the letter particularly detailed.)
  • "Where else should I submit this?" (a. I don't know. b. This is your job.)
  • "Why is getting published so hard?" (No matter how sympathetic the editor seems, don't start whining to her. Be professional, cheerful, and accepting of critique. We meet a broad spectrum of people at conferences, and these qualities usually mark the people who have a chance at making it in the industry.)


Sarah Laurenson said...

Thanks. Good list of Do's and Don'ts.

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