Tag Archives: manuscript critique

Top 10 Things I Say To Authors at Conferences

stickfigureGIFoozThis past weekend I was at the New England SCBWI conference, Thinking Outside the Crayon Box, doing query critiques and manuscript critiques. First of all, I happen to love going to this conference. It’s impeccably run, pretty darn big, draws really top notch speakers, and the attendees are some of the nicest people ever. But I noticed that the words that were coming out of my mouth as I spoke to the authors to whom I was assigned were pretty much the same as they usually are when I go to conferences anywhere.

Here’s the scene: I sit across a small round table with an author on the other side. They are either nervous or not, friendly or not, open to hearing my input on their query letter or manuscript, or not. Regardless, I always try to make them feel comfortable, usually with a joke (which is usually a dumb one), and I remind them I’m just a regular person. Often they politely laugh at my jokes. I do try to make a difference for them and their writing. But I’ve found that besides the things that are particular to each person’s manuscript, there’s a recurring theme to the things I usually end up saying. Here are the top 10 things (in no particular order) that come out of my mouth when I’m critiquing query letters and manuscripts at conferences:

1. You’ve got a good premise here, but I don’t feel the writing’s where it needs to be yet.

2. You need to show more and tell less.

3. Your dialogue still needs some work. It doesn’t feel authentically teen/middle grade.

4. I’m sorry, I’m just going to slurp down some more of this coffee.

5. This feels like info dumping; try to sneak all this backstory into your narrative.

6. I’ve read your first 10 pages but nothing’s happened yet; this feels like throat clearing before your story starts.

7. One of the most important tasks of your first pages is to have your reader feel invested in your character and want to find out what happens to them next.

8. You have to know your market and know who your manuscript is geared to. Middle grade books are focused on readers between 8 and 12 years old; young adult fiction is geared towards kids who are about 12 to 18.

9. Your word count is way too high. OR Your word count is way too low. Try to familiarize yourself to the industry standards

10. Yes, I’ll be hanging out in the bar later with the other agents and editors! 😉

So, conference attendees who have heard any of these things from me, know that you’re in good company! And people who I will meet at conferences in the future? I’m certain I will be saying some of these things to you, too! But perhaps, now that you’ve read this blog post, you can go back to your manuscript and try to attend to some of these common pitfalls of writing.


Filed under Uncategorized

Manuscript Critique Contest! (CLOSED)

Unsurprisingly, Richard Pearson has won the critique! His friend, “Rufus’ Food & Spirits Guide,” will receive a book about writing, as well. Congrats! For everyone else who entered, thank you for becoming a follower. I’ll try to keep you entertained and informed and not whine too much. If you follow me on Twitter, send me a Tweet telling me your favorite book EVER and I’ll pick one more person to get a 5 page critique! This offer is open only from RIGHT THIS MINUTE until Friday, August 31st at noon (EST) for people who entered THIS contest and didn’t win and AREN’T Richard Pearson or one of his friends… The winner will be announced on Twitter. AND NOW THE “SECOND CHANCE” PART IS CLOSED, TOO! (Judy Ratto is our Second Chance winner! Congrats!)

I’m a little bored. End of August doldrums… I’ve got an idea! How about a contest?!

Win a critique of the first 5 pages of your manuscript (fiction only) and a book on writing for a friend!

Here’s how:

  • If you’re a blog follower already, all you have to do is invite one other person to follow. Once they start following, you’ll be entered into the raffle. If you win the raffle, you get the critique and they get the book.
  • The more of your friends that you get to follow, the more times you’re entered into the raffle.
  • Then just post your name and your friend’s name in the comments section down below.
  • If you’re not a blog follower yet, all you have to do is become one and invite one other person to follow. Once they do, you’ll both be entered into the raffle to win manuscript critiques. Again, the more of your friends you invite to follow, the more times you’ll be entered into the raffle. (Make sure to let me know in the comments section that you and your friend are both new followers.)
  • Please make sure to read the FAQs, down below.

Winners will be chosen at random by the extremely reliable scientific method of me writing all the names down on little pieces of paper and putting them into a pasta pot then having my 12 year old son pick a name out of the pot. 🙂

This contest will run from right this minute until Thursday, August 30th at noon (Eastern time). Ready, set, go!

Any questions about rules, etc… please post to comments and I’ll answer by updating the FAQs section.


How do I follow this blog? You have to hit the “e-mail subscription” button in the top left corner. Following me on Twitter is NOT following the blog. Although I’d LOVE for you to follow me on Twitter too!

Can I just post a comment to be entered? No, you have to hit the “e-mail subscription” button in the top left corner! Sheesh! I just said that…

How many friends can I invite (ie. how many times can I enter to win)? Well, I didn’t really specify, so I guess you can invite as many people as you want. But I really want you to invite your author friends, because this blog is mostly for writers and other people who want to get published.  And my Mom and Dad.

Do the 5 pages that you’ll critique have to be from a completed manuscript, or can it be a work in progress? No, it does not have to be a complete manuscript. But it does have to be the first 5 pages. It’s really difficult to critique something from the middle of a manuscript that I know nothing about. Also, if your first 5 pages are a prologue, think about getting rid of it. Most prologues are unnecessary backstory that should be woven into the text of your story.

What books will you be giving as gifts? Seriously? It’s a present! All right… I’ll check with you before I mail it to make sure you don’t have it, ok?


Filed under Uncategorized