Tag Archives: manuscript critiques

On Writing: What Stymies You?

nowritingI’m doing manuscript critiques for the Backspace Writer’s Conference, which I’ll be at tomorrow and Friday. As I’ve mentioned before on this blog, I love going to writing conferences. I love having the opportunity to interact with writers, giving them feedback that I just don’t have time to give  when answering queries. I also get very inspired to write. I am, after all, first and formost (at least in my own mind, if not in actuality) a writer. I had lunch the other day with my client Joe McGee, who is not only a very fine writer himself but also teaches writing to others.  Joe and I were discussing writing, inspiration, and how difficult it is can be to get out of our own way.

As an agent I’m constantly reading other people’s work and assessing their writing and ideas to see if they have legs for publication. I see many of the same mistakes or weaknesses in writing over and over and over and over again. Information dumping. Descriptions of things/events/thoughts/etc… that do nothing to move the plot forward or illuminate a character. Lots of throat clearing. Lots and lots and lots of telling (versus showing) of a story. Tons of wiggling eyebrows, noticing of something suddenly, and thoughts conveniently crossing a main character’s mind. And let’s not forget dream sequences, staring into mirrors, and remembering one’s childhood or dead mother/father/grandparent/sibling/best friend/boy or girlfriend.

So as I critique these pages for the conference, I’m mostly saying the same things to these authors. Does this make them bad writers? No, not really. Actually, some of them are darn good writers. But the repetitiveness of my critiques points to how difficult it is to overcome these pitfalls, regardless of one’s skill level or innate talent.

So how does doing this affect me as a writer? Well, it actually stymies me. I find it excruciatingly difficult to get out of my own way. Joe’s (excellent) advice, and the advice of so many who have commented on the blog, is to just write the goddam first draft. Write it without revising. Write it because it wants to be written. Write it without thinking too much. Write it for yourself, not for anyone else’s eyes. Just write it.

Although I know many of you are eager to give me your advice, honestly I don’t really need more advice. As my kids say to me, “I’m good.” I mean, we all know what to do about it: Just write anyway. What I’d love to know though is what stops you. What stymies you when you’re writing and why do you think it does that? 


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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?


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