Monday, November 01, 2010

The Critique

Adrenaline surged, I think I was holding my breath. This was the moment I was waiting for—an honest and objective assessment of my first page.

Apparently Chuck, my main character, is unlikeable. He comes off as a jerk in that first page. We don’t know why he’s working at the bar in the casino if he hates it so much. They didn’t feel they learned much about him, nor did they develop any sense of sympathy about him.

I frantically scribbled notes as the agents spoke. At the very end, the agents thanked all the participants for submitting their work and called us brave. Mr. McAgentton said “There’s no way in hell I would have done that.” I sat there thinking “Why the hell wouldn’t you have done it. How do you expect the world to read your book if you can’t submit one measly page to get critiqued?” I am going to put my pages in front of any pair of eyes that want to critique it. How else am I going to improve?

Later on, after I left the conference, I 30 minutes south drove to Connecticut to visit Dad and wondered how I could convey all of that in three or so paragraphs. I reflected on how the readings of the other first pages seemed so much longer and wondered if they were using smaller fonts on those. Were the other writers typing single spaced?
I let the response rattle around in my head. I didn’t talk about it with Dad because, actually, he didn’t really know I was writing a book. I mean, I am sure I mentioned it to him but I mention a lot of things that I eventually toss aside when something else comes along. He doesn’t know anything about the story, so I didn’t really say much about it. Besides we were busy gossiping anyway.

Then I called Todd from Dad’s house and he asked me how it went. “Well, the agent meeting went well, but the critique was kind of hurty.” He apologized and said he suspected that would happen.

“But you know what? Actually, I’m not hurt. It was exactly what I needed. I don’t regret submitting my page, and I’d do it again. I’ve got some work to do, and I am thrilled to have had the opportunity to get critiqued. I didn’t go there to defend my work, I went there to learn how to improve it. Mission accomplished.”

Sunday morning I got up at 4 in the morning with ideas on how to make Chuck likeable. I convinced myself to stay in bed until 7, and couldn’t stand it anymore. I slipped on my sweats and slippers. I did a cuppa tea in the microwave and then set down to work.

After re-writing, and a profing by Todd, I submitted my first 50 pages to Mr. McAgentton, per his request. And then I looked up the particularly expressive agent because she deals in commercial fiction (which is my genre) and submitted my first 10 pages to her, per her submission guidelines on her web site.

And now I frantically click on the “refresh” button on my email. I pace and threaten to wear a hole in my hardwood floors. And I expect that the clicking, the refreshing and the pacing will go on for a damn long time until I manage to land an agent.

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