|Photo by Jeffrey James Pacres, Creative Commons license|
I've signed up for a critique at the Illinois-SCBWI conference next month, so now I'm faced with a decision -- which manuscript do I send? Well, I can tell you one thing. I'm not sending my best work.
|Photo by Tim Simpson, Creative Commons license|
"WHAT?!" you may think. "Are you crazy?"
Let me explain.
The choice of which manuscript to send was easy for the first conference I attended. I only had one story in the stable.
But soon I had several. For the next conference, I sent my very best. The story my critique group felt was "ready to go". The one I had polished to a fine shine. I imagined an editor seeking me out in the crowd, throwing arms around me, declaring "I WANT YOUR BOOK!"
|Photo by Matt Herzberger, Creative Commons license|
The written critique I received was kind, yet not very helpful. I loved my story and I hoped the editor would love it, too. It was well written, but I already knew in my heart that the manuscript was too quiet for the market, and that's exactly the feedback I received.
Nothing was gained. I had wasted an opportunity because I had mistakenly viewed my critique as a sales vehicle rather than the chance to get feedback from a professional.
Now, I'm not recommending that you send a first draft. But perhaps you have something that your stuck on? A piece that your critique group can't seem to connect with? A story that could use a fresh set of eyes? Send that! Use this opportunity to learn. Unlike a submission, you are guaranteed to get feedback.
You'll still have your sales opportunity. You can submit to this same editor, as well as the others on faculty, after the conference. But you'll be submitting the new and improved version of your work.
Here are a few more tips on conference critiques from two Illinois-SCBWI reps, Lisa Bierman and Sara Shacter:
• Bring a copy of your manuscript with you to a face-to-face critique. And come with questions.
• When talking with the editor/agent, communicate that you are wide open to advice (even if it's hard to hear!). It's all about having an open dialogue.
• A written critique is often inserted into your conference folder. Resist the temptation to look at it immediately! Instead, focus on learning as much as you can from the day's sessions.
• Tuck a written critique away for a few days and come back to it. Looking at it later, it won't sting as much and it will be easier to observe it objectively.
• Keep a copy of your pre-conference manuscript. After you've made suggested changes, look at both versions to see what works.
• If you receive a helpful critique, let the person know! Thank you cards are good.
Do you have any other conference critique advice to share, GROG readers?