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Conference Tip: How to Prepare For a Paid Critique

So you’ve signed up for a paid critique—put skin in the game. And you’re hopeful someone whose been there, done that will help you get a “yes” from an editor or agent.

The question is, how to make the most of this valuable opportunity? Just to be sure, I asked Lena Nelson Dooley, another critiquer who shoe-horned time from her hectic schedule, to help with this article.

Professional is as professional does

Let me start with the obvious. Try to look serious by following professional formatting guidelines for your manuscript. Nothing screams amateur louder than a 10 point Arial font, single-spaced with half-inch margins. Daily Writing Tips has a set of 16 manuscript formatting guidelines that’ll help you look like you know what you’re doing (even if you don’t).

And by all means, do your best to eliminate grammar, punctuation, and spelling mistakes. Having said that, eliminating those errors is easier said than done. I don’t know an author who doesn’t struggle with it. My writer friends agree after we’ve flogged a manuscript around a while, we simply cannot see it anymore.

Pros seek another set of eyes

If you can’t get someone else to look at your work, I’ve got a trick for you. I use a free program to read text aloud called ReadPlease . The paid version has all kinds of interesting bells and whistles, but I stick with the free version. It amazes me how much I catch listening to that mechanical voice drone out my copy.

In a short piece like this, I cannot cover all the mistakes writers make that keep them from publication. But in my opinion, one of the biggest problems is writing a character without showing the character’s motivation. This sounds obvious, but it isn’t. You can make a lot of common errors, and still get published—best-selling authors do it all the time. But this mistake will torpedo you and sink your boat every time.

I have an article titled “The Big Mistake” at the articles page on my website that covers this mistake in some detail. Read this article, then go back and look at your pages. Does the reader know starting from page one what your character wants and why?

Three tips from Lena

Lena Nelson DooleyLena Nelson Dooley, one of the more popular paid critiquers, offers these three tips.

  1. Be sure you let the person doing the critique know which publisher you’re trying to market the book to. (I’d add that if you don’t know who you want to market to, ask your paid critiquer as they may be able to guide you there. If it’s someone you don’t have an appointment with, you may be able to gently approach that person at a meal or in the elevator and still accomplish your mission.)
  2. Follow the instructions your critiquer sent you. Don’t send extra pages, just in case they want to see them. Most do not have extra time to put into the critiques.
  3. Prepare yourself spiritually before you send the work and before you go to your meeting. Pray that the person will have God’s words for you about your pages.

I’d add that you might also pray blessings upon your critiquer’s work and the work of the entire conference staff. Given what and Who we’re at conference for, that makes a lot of sense. Plus, the Bible teaches those kinds of blessings ricochet.

God bless you and the work of your hands.


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