Some Positive Feedback

Always welcome when you’re struggling or unsure.

I sent the first five pages of my revised first novel to an agent after participating in a Writers Digest webinar. I finally heard back from her late yesterday. Here are her comments:

“Overall, really fantastic writing. It’s beautifully composed –and also subtle. So despite the rather brash setup of an ex-convict, this leaves me feeling very intrigued about the rest of the plot. Nice job! I don’t have any overarching notes for you, other than to continue working on loosening your dialogue. You’ve got a good start to it, but there are some scenes that come across as just a touch stiff. (Dialogue is hard; it will come with some revision, I’m sure.) Best of luck with your query process; I have no doubt you will find an agent!”

So that’s pretty cool, right? If you’re wondering why she didn’t ask for the full manuscript herself, she doesn’t usually represent this genre. However, having good feedback from professional agent is certainly encouraging. I have already made revisions to the opening chapter of Three Empty Frames and will post the final edition later this week. Thank you all for reading along!

Constructive and Destructive Criticism

We all like getting feedback, don’t we? Part of the purpose of blogging is being able to interact with people who share our interests and passions. Is it inevitable that we eventually encounter someone whose sole purpose seems to be to cause trouble? Probably. It’s happened to me and I know it’s happened to a few of my friends. I was recently a witness to a really nasty exchange in a writers’ forum on another social media site. An editor felt it her duty to denigrate someone who had made grammatical errors in a comment thread. That’s right, a comment. The conversation that followed was the equivalent of a verbal brawl. However, the writers who came to the defense of the error prone commenter made a compelling argument on her behalf.

The consensus among the writers was this: that we should not be held to the same standards for informal writing and commenting that we would be for our professional endeavors. This may or may not include your blog, depending on the type of blog you have. It should be obvious, but for a writer, the highest standards of grammar and punctuation should apply. It is, after all, your author platform. On the other hand, if you’re just blogging for fun, then it’s not as critical.

Nevertheless, if you are serious about becoming a writer, you must endeavor to use good grammar and punctuation. No agent or publisher is going to take you seriously if you submit sloppy work for publication. There are software programs, books and guides readily available to help you improve your grammar and punctuation. They are not that expensive, trust me. I picked up a copy of the classic: “The Elements of Style” by William Strunk for 99 cents on Kindle.

Back to the negative feedback… How does one react? Fortunately with WordPress, comments on our own blogs can be held for moderation, edited by the site author and deleted if they are really offensive. But what if you could tell that the counsel was given with good intentions? It is a sincere effort to correct a glaring error. Yet there it is in the comment thread, shining the light of disapproval on your hard work. Perhaps you could thank the commenter, make the correction and explain that you will delete the exchange after the fact.

However, on the part of the one making the critique, is it necessary to correct mistakes in public at all? What good does that do except embarrass the one who made the mistake? Is making the correction that important to you? Then perhaps find a way to do it privately. Ask yourself what your purpose is in making the correction. Do you really want to make sure the misconception or confusion is cleared up or are you just out to make yourself look smarter? Have you heard the expression “Would you rather be right or kind?” Think about it. Then do the right thing.

It’s a mean, mean world. We don’t need to contribute to it.

Nearly there…

Every time I think I’ve finished my editing and revising of Three Empty Frames, I find more mistakes! The first chapter has undergone a major revision and other sections have been trimmed and reduced. Anytime you perform literary surgery like that, there is bound to be bleeding.

For a writer/author hoping to catch the attention of readers and literary agents, the importance of the opening chapter and especially the first few lines, cannot be stressed enough. Those lines need to introduce character and conflict to the extent that a reader is hooked and they need to find out what happens next. They also should set the time and the place of the story, at least in general terms –for example, modern America, in the early spring for Three Empty Frames. The specifics can be added in later in the narrative.

Even though it appears that querying for this book in the series is off the table, thanks to its self-published status, I am proceeding on the assumption that any agent that takes a look at the manuscript I do query with (still to be determined), the other books will come to their attention and thusly need to be the very best they can be. All the first chapters are getting major revisions while I wait on my editor to finish up the fifth book of the series –the one I will most likely pitch to an agent.

I’m having a final read through of Three Empty Frames before posting the first chapter for you to read. This is the story that introduces you to Bucks County and the cast of characters that inhabit my series. My plan is finish within the month of September.