Monday, April 30, 2012

Crits for Water Interview with Author Sherry Thomas

(Or, Covering Your Blind Spots)

A charity: water fact Charity: water employs and trains Central Africans to build and maintain the water wells that save lives every day.

Historical romance author Sherry Thomas has charity: water on her radar for the second year in a row (see last year’s interview: If the Old Doesn’t Go, the New Doesn’t Come). Gear up for the bidding on her three-chapter critique donation (available May 1st).

Help me welcome Sherry and congratulate her on her release-day novel.


Sherry Thomas burst onto the scene with PRIVATE ARRANGEMENTS, a Publisher Weekly Best Book of 2008. Her sophomore book, DELICIOUS, is a Library Journal Best Romance of 2008. Her next two books, NOT QUITE A HUSBAND and HIS AT NIGHT, are back-to-back winners of Romance Writers of America's prestigious RITA® Award for Best Historical Romance in 2010 and 2011.  Lisa Kleypas calls her "the most powerfully original historical romance author working today."

English is Sherry's second language—she has come a long way from the days when she made her laborious way through Rosemary Roger's SWEET SAVAGE LOVE with an English-Chinese dictionary. She enjoys digging down to the emotional core of stories. And when she is not writing, she thinks about the zen and zaniness of her profession, plays computer games with her sons, and reads as many fabulous books as she can find.

Sherry’s latest, BEGUILING THE BEAUTY, book one of the Fitzhugh Trilogy, is available May 1, 2012.


NAE: What is your favorite thing about writing a critique?

Sherry: When I hit on an issue and I have a pretty good idea on how to fix it.  

NAE: What is your favorite thing about receiving a critique back?

Sherry: When my critiquer not only sees problems, but gives me really good ideas on how to fix it. (Two sides of a coin.)

NAE: Why is critiquing important?

Sherry: For the one doing the critiquing, because it trains your critical thinking. For the one on the receiving end, sometimes there are just blind spots in what we can perceive about our own manuscript. A fresh pair of eyes can prove invaluable.

NAE: Your critique style is like which of the following: Red Pen Editor, Overall Commenter, Supportive Critic, You’ll Know It If I Catch It?

Sherry: I am an overall commenter unless the story doesn't have any major story/character/pacing problems. Then I might comment on scene-level problems. I usually do not pay much attention to grammatical/spelling errors unless they are atrocious. And I generally do not line edit when there are bigger issues.

NAE: Name one of your favorite 2012 books (coming out or already released), and why.

Sherry: I'm always behind so I will probably be 2015 by the time I get to 2012 books. The next book I'm going to read is The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart.

Crits for Water Quickfires—And, go:

1. Oxford comma?   Yes.

2. Should "I like him too" have a comma before "too"?   I don't do it personally, but my copyeditors always do. :-)

3. Italicize or underline?    Italicize.

4. How do you separate scenes: #, ***, line break?   #

5. What's your favorite verb?   Be.


Take a look at Sherry’s new release, available now. Happy release day, Sherry!

When the Duke of Lexington meets the mysterious Baroness von Seidlitz-Hardenberg aboard a transatlantic ocean liner, he is fascinated. She is exactly what he has been searching for—a beautiful woman who interests and entices him. He falls hard and fast—and soon proposes marriage. 

And then she disappears without a trace…

For in reality, the “baroness” is Venetia Easterbrook—a proper young widow who had her own vengeful reasons for instigating an affair with the duke. But the plan has backfired. Venetia has fallen in love with the man she despised—and there’s no telling what might happen when she is finally unmasked…


Thanks for the interview, Sherry.

If you would like Sherry Thomas to look for blind spots you might have, consider bidding on her critique here on May 1st.

Thanks to everyone else has donated to the 2012 Crits for Water campaign so far. You guys are the best.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Crits for Water Interview: Romance Author Jenn LeBlanc

(Or, Feel it in Your Bones)

A charity water fact: 
Unsafe water accounts for 80% of all sickness and disease around the world.

That’s one of the reasons that illustrated romance author Jenn LeBlanc has stepped forward and donated a first chapter (up to 20 pages)critique. She knows that we can chip away at that 80% with huge results. Oh, yes. She feels it in her bones. Take a peek at her bio and then her thoughts on critiquing below.


Canon. Curls. Colorado. CJs. Chuck Norris.

Born and raised in a household of other people’s children in this beautiful state —very nearly with a camera in hand— she never left. She started her own family, got used to the curls, went to college, built a CJ, started a business, and totally beat the daylights out of Chuck Norris, all with a camera in hand. 

Spending her days in parenting chat rooms she got highly adept with one-handed typing and she can still type just about as fast with one hand as she can with two. It’s a great talent to have when engrossed in a scene and in need of a hit of caffeine. One she finished her first novel she quickly realized: She was born a photographer.

From the realization that someone ELSE would be shooting the cover of HER book her control-freak took over. What started as an easy cover shoot ballooned into this completely new kind of media, designed specifically for digital book readers.

She lives and thrives off chaos and the constant flow of the creative process. She wear shorts and flip-flops year-round —much to the chagrin of her friends and family— and she is currently working on the illustrations for her second novel. Her first serial novel THE RAKE AND THE RECLUSE is doing its own Chuck Norris impersonation with the time travel charts on Amazon. You can find her on 
Twitter and Facebook sharing eye candy and being a total rock star.


NAE: What valuable lesson have you learned from one of your critiquers/beta-readers?

Jenn: One of the most important lessons I've learned from my beta readers and critiquers is that everyone comes from a different place and brings something with them to your work. Nobody is objective. Parts of my first novel deal with very difficult situations and getting opinions from others about how these things affected them was paramount to the process of building a character that was terribly misused and damaged, as well as creating the healing process and making sure that she was cared for properly by the people around her (most importantly the hero). In all of it, it's important to keep your voice, but just as important to understand how your words might affect someone. No you can't make everyone happy, that isn't the point, but building characters that are true to themselves and to their situations makes them accessible to your readers. They will fall for your people, love them even more, if they can relate and identify with them properly.

NAE: What is one of the worst mistakes a critiquer can make?

Jenn:  I believe the worst possible mistake a critiquer can make is to make it personal. It's a very delicate operation, critiquing. You are looking at someone's heart, their very soul in some cases, and you have to treat it as such. You have to be true to the process and discuss the problems or issues as you see them with the manuscript while at the same time not attacking the writer, or the work in a personal way. It really isn't easy, and the person you are critiquing needs to be just as open and prepared for the process as the critiquer is.

NAE: What is your general process when you critique someone’s work?

Jenn:  I like to read through and make general observations. However, if the work is in need of a great deal of help with technical issues that sometimes isn't possible, and I will work on those first. But I like to read the work, get the general idea and feel for the voice and pacing of the ms before digging in and attempting to find any issues that are keeping it from being the strongest possible work it can be.

NAE: Is there one specific thing that you gravitate toward while critiquing?

Jenn:  I tend to gravitate toward emotion and characterization. I adore pushing the emotion in a scene, ensuring the scene has reached its fullest potential. I want to feel it in my bones, whatever emotion it is, I need to feel it in my bones. I look for description and dialog that is well balanced and brings the reader on the journey. Language that shows instead of tells, words that describe without being passive or obtrusive.

Crits for Water Quickfires: And, go.

1.       Oxford comma?   Yes.
2.       Should “I like him too” have a comma before “too”?  Yes.
3.       Italicize or underline? Italicize.
4.       How do you separate scenes: #, ***, or line break? ***
5.       What is your favorite verb? Want.


The first part of Jenn’s THE RAKE AND THE RECLUSE, FREEDOM is available on kindle for free.

For a chance to ensure everyone feels  your MC’s emotions in their bones, follow the instructions for Jenn’s first chapter critique here.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Crits for Water Interview with Author Elise Rome

(Or, Can’t Help Marking Things)

A charity water fact: The 2012 Crits for Water campaign has raised over $2,000 so far, which gives 100 people water for 20 years. Our goal is to help another 400 people.

And romance author Elise Rome is on board, helping out for the second year in a row (see her 2011 interview: Tempering Your Overprotective Muse). She’s got a 50-page critique up for auction here.

Meet super-mommy slash author, Elise.


Elise Rome has never forgiven Margaret Mitchell for making her fall in love with Scarlett and Rhett in Gone with the Wind and then not giving them a happy ending. She likes to think that she makes up for this injustice with each romance novel she writes. When she isn't telling stories about sexy, headstrong heroes and intelligent, independent heroines, Elise stays busy chasing after her two young daughters, semi-attempting to do housework, and hiking in the beautiful foothills of Colorado.


NAE: What is your favorite thing about receiving a critique back?

Elise: I really appreciate having another set of eyes looking over my work. I usually edit as I write and then go back to edit even more, but I know that there are things that my critique partners catch that I never would by myself. And when I do something right, I love getting that confirmation from a critique partner that it worked for them as well.

NAE: Why is critiquing important?

Elise: I see critiques as feedback from the author's first readers. Yes, they probably read more slowly and analyze more than normal readers do, but they're still readers when it comes down to it. If I don't have a strong opening, my CPs will tell me. If they don't like my hero, my CPs will tell me. They're not just there to correct my spelling or grammar or tell when a sentence doesn't work; they're invaluable in making all aspects of the book as good as it can be before it's actually published, and my writing would definitely not be as strong without them.

NAE: Your critique style is like which of the following: Red Pen Editor, Overall Commenter, Supportive Critic, You’ll Know It If I Catch It?

Elise: Red Pen Editor. Even when people just ask for me to beta read, I can't help marking things when I see them. Unless something really strikes me while I'm doing line edits, I'll save all the good stuff for my summary at the end. My marks and comments in the actual manuscript are for me to tell the author what I think needs worked on.

NAE: Name one of your favorite 2012 books (coming out or already released), and why.

Elise: MARIANA by Susanna Kearsley just blew me away. This is the first book of hers I've read, and I can't wait to get time to read other books in her backlist. It's not really a romance novel as much as a mainstream time travel with romantic elements, but I still loved everything about it. She has such a fluid, easy way of writing that pulls you in with each sentence, and although the pace was never gripping as it might be in suspense novels, I couldn't stop turning the pages.


Crits for Water Quickfires – And, go:

1. Oxford comma?   Yes! Leaving it out drives me crazy.

2. Should "I like him too" have a comma before "too"?   Yes.

3. Italicize or underline?   Italicize.

4. How do you separate scenes: #, ***, line break?   ***

5. What's your favorite verb?   To love. ;)


Thank you, Elise! Elise’s novella, The Sinning Hour, is scheduled to be released soon. And it looks fabulous.

A man accustomed to getting whatever he wishes and a woman whose wishes have never come true: at night, all they need is one another.


For those who’d like to see the types of things Elise can’t help marking in a critique, take a stab at her 50-page critique here, and save lives.

Crits for Water Interview with YA Author Brigid Kemmerer

(Or, Taking Things by STORM)

A charity water fact: 300 children die per hour from water-related diseases.

Which is why author Brigid Kemmerer is spending the release day of her novel STORM doing something charitable. She’s donated a 20-page critique to the 2012 Crits for Water campaign. I won her critique last year, and let me tell you—she’s awesome!

Meet Brigid.

Brigid Kemmerer was born in Omaha, Nebraska, though her parents quickly moved her all over
the United States, from the desert in Albuquerque, New Mexico, to the lakeside in Cleveland,
Ohio, and several stops in between. Brigid started writing in high school, and her first real “novel
was about four vampire brothers causing a ruckus in the suburbs. Those four brothers are the
same boys living in the pages of
The Elemental Series, so Brigid likes to say she’s had four teenage
boys taking up space in her head for the last seventeen years. (Though sometimes that just makes
her sound nuts.) Check out her
blog and find her on Twitter.


NAE: What is your favorite thing about writing a critique?

Brigid: I'm not great at writing an overall critique. One of my crit partners (hi, Bobbie!) is exceptional at qualifying what works in a scene on many levels, and can send me paragraphs outlining my characters' motivations. I'm honestly convinced she knows my characters better than I do. I prefer to go through a manuscript and make comments as I go -- and there will be several.

NAE: What is your favorite thing about receiving a critique back?

Brigid: I love receiving critiques on my work! I'm a perfectionist, and I love hearing what's not working -- so I can fix it. I used to get the knee-jerk reaction of, "Don't criticize my work!" just like everyone does when they're first starting out, but once I learned that people are genuinely trying to help me improve, I stopped feeling that way. Now I look at every criticism as an opportunity. I'm also secure enough in my own work to reject a change if I don't feel it's working -- as well as to admit I'm wrong if something is genuinely crap.

NAE: Why is critiquing important?

Brigid: Critiquing work for others is the best way to develop your own editorial eye. While writing workshops are great places to hone your craft, they can be expensive. I could never afford to do one, so I critiqued as many manuscripts as I could. It's a quick (and FREE) way to learn what works, and what doesn't.

NAE: Your critique style is like which of the following: Red Pen Editor, Overall Commenter, Supportive Critic, You’ll Know It If I Catch It?

Brigid: I'm a combination of the Red Pen Editor and the Supportive Critic. I'm going to mark obvious errors, but I'm also going to put reasoning behind my bigger picture changes and explain why I think a change is necessary. I also try to look for places where something is working WELL, because I think it's easy for writers to fall into the habit of only looking for the bad.

NAE: Name one of your favorite 2012 books (coming out or already released), and why.

Brigid: So far I've loved UNDER THE NEVER SKY by Veronica Rossi and I'VE GOT YOUR NUMBER by Sophie Kinsella.


Crits for Water Quickfires – And, Go.

1. Oxford comma?   Absolutely.

2. Should "I like him too" have a comma before "too"?   Yes. And if it shouldn't, my copy editor will catch it. :-)

3. Italicize or underline?   Italicize!

4. How do you separate scenes: #, ***, line break?   I use three pound signs: ###

5. What's your favorite verb?   I have no idea. I like the word "saturnine," but that's an adjective.

Because this is her second year participating in Crits for Water, you can check out her previous thoughts about critiques here: Critique Until it’s Automatic.


If you want to see if your writing has the elements of a great work-in-progress, take a look at Brigid’s 2,500-word critique here. In the meantime, check out her debut release, STORM.

Becca Chandler is suddenly getting all the guys-- the ones she doesn't want. Ever since her
ex-boyfriend spread those lies about her.Then she saves Chris Merrick from a beating in the
school parking lot. Chris is different. Way different: he can control water--just like his brothers
 can control fire, wind, and earth. They're powerful. Dangerous. Marked for death. And now
that she knows the truth, so is Becca. Secrets are hard to keep when your life's at stake. When
Hunter, the mysterious new kid around school, turns up with a talent for being in the wrong place
at the right time, Becca thinks she can trust him. But then Hunter goes head-to-head with Chris,
and Becca wonders who's hiding the most dangerous truth of all. The storm is coming. . .


Thanks, Brigid, and happy release day!

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Crits for Water Interview with Agent Suzie Townsend

(Or, Following Great Characters Anywhere)

A charity water fact: Unsafe drinking water results in diseases like dysentery, parasitic infections, and typhoid fever, killing 10,000 people per day.

Suzie Townsend is painfully aware of this statistic, which is why she jumped at the chance to donate to the 2012 Crits for Water campaign. And her donation is huge: a full manuscript critique with a two-page write-up AND a follow-up phone call. Bid early and often. We’ve got a lot of lives to save.

Meet Suzie, and read what she’s revealed about critiques.


After teaching high school English for several years, Suzie Townsend is now an agent at Nancy Coffey Literary actively looking to build her list. She’s an active member of AAR, RWA, and SCBWI.

Suzie is specifically looking for adult romance (historical and paranormal) and fantasy (urban, science fiction, steam punk, and epic fantasy). In children’s books she loves Young Adult (all subgenres) and is dying to find great Middle Grade projects (especially something akin to the recent movie SUPER 8).

She drinks too much diet orange soda, has a Starbucks problem (those soy chai lattes are addictive), and lives in Brooklyn with two dogs who know that chewing on shoes is okay but chewing on books is not. Check out Suzie's Publisher's Marketplace page here. She also keeps a blog. And you can follow her on Twitter here.


NAE: After a writer gets back an in-depth critique, what would you recommend in terms of a review/revise process?

Suzie: My first recommendation would be to read all of the notes--just read them. I would even go as far to say that sometimes the best revisions come after reading the notes, thinking about them for a few days, and then devising a plan of attack. This works especially when there's a lot of work to do. I always recommend to my clients that they attack the easiest revisions first, that way they can build up to the harder notes.

Really though, I think it's important for every writer (and reviser!) to remember that they need to find the the best method for them.

NAE: What’s one of the worst mistakes a critiquer can make?

Suzie: Making it about them. It's important for every critiquer to approach a manuscript with the idea that this is about the book and about readers. When you're doing a critique, you're not writing a review or your opinions. You have to focus on aspects of the writing and the storytelling that don't seem to be working as well as they could be, explaining why, and offering suggestions on how to make it work.

NAE: When you critique someone’s work, what is your general process?

Suzie: It depends. I approach each project differently. Usually I read through the manuscript once and jot down thoughts about overarching aspects like characters, worldbuilding, plot, pacing, etc. At the end of that read, if I have a lot of thoughts, I'll reread and type up and editorial letter. In contrast if all of my thoughts are minor, then I'll reread and do some line edits.

NAE: Is there one specific thing that you gravitate toward while critiquing?

Suzie: My first concern is always the characters. Readers will follow great characters anywhere. The stakes are high when you love the characters because you care about what they care about whether they're trying to stop a terrorist attack or just graduate high school. But for me I always start out looking at the big ideas: characters, worldbuilding, pacing, and plot.


Crits for Water Quickfires – And, go:

1. Oxford comma?   Whatever. I'm not particular as long as I'm not confused.

2. Should "I like him too" have a comma before "too"?   It depends how it should be read.

3. Italicize or underline?   Italicize

4. How do you separate scenes: #, ***, line break?   Whatever.

5. What's your favorite verb?   Acquiesce.


Thanks for the interview, Suzie, and for such a great donation to the campaign!

Okay, everyone. If you’d like to see if you’ve created a great character that Suzie would follow anywhere, bid on her full manuscript and follow-up call here.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Crits for Water Interview with Author Anna Randol

(Or, Consistent Characters: Vital)

A charity water fact: A trip to find water takes up to 6 hours for women and children to collect. Disease-ridden water.

Because some people don’t have any choice. But historical romance author Anna Randol is working on giving these people more choices, because she’s donated a 25-page plus query critique in the 2012 Crits for Water campaign. 

Please help me welcome Anna.


Anna lives with her family in Southern California. She writes sultry, adventurous Regency romances
 for Avon. Her debut novel, A Secret In Her Kiss, is set in Constantinople and earned a starred review
from Publisher’s Weekly, who called it a “...masterful debut…[that] spins a tale replete with mystery,
espionage, and memorable romance.” When she’s not plotting fun, sexy storylines, Anna’s usually
 eating dark chocolate, having wild dance parties with her kids in the living room, or remodeling her
house one ill-planned project at a time. She loves hearing from readers at her website or on Twitter!


NAE: After a writer gets back an in-depth critique, what would you recommend in terms of a review/revise process?

Anna: This is the process that I find works for me. First, get a large amount of chocolate and soft, non-breakable objects. Then with eyes closed, click the button to open the critique. After you’ve built up your courage, eat some chocolate, then open your eyes. (After all, I’ve never heard of anyone having a mental breakdown while eating chocolate). Read the critique through once. Throw convenient, nearby, soft objects at your computer. Eat more chocolate. Step away from the computer. Take a moment to actually ponder what the critique said. Read the suggestions again. Realize the critique giver actually had a few—okay, lots—of good suggestions. Incorporate the edits that resonate with you.

NAE: What is the one piece of advice you can give to someone trying to develop his or her critique skills?

Anna: Read a lot! And read a lot out of your comfort zone. For instance, I have a weak spot for Beauty and the Beast retellings, but if all I read are those stories, how will I be able to give useful feedback to a my crit partner’s gritty, post-apocalyptic zombie mystery? I’m not saying you have to be an expert in all genres to be a good critiquer, but I think it helps to understand there can be a difference between what I personally like and what is good or workable. It’s important to remember you are trying to make the work you’re critiquing the best it can be, not rewrite it to be the book you would write.

NAE: When you critique someone’s work, what is your general process?

Anna: I read through once and try to get a feel for the characters and pacing. I’ll only make notes if my hand becomes possessed and I have no choice (or it’s some little thing I’m afraid I’ll overlook later). Then I sit back and think about the book—sometimes even over several days—and consider what stuck with me (the good: e.g. great heroine, fast plot, funny dialogue) and what is nagging at me (The things I’ll suggest changes in: e.g. plot holes, inconsistent motivation etc.). After that, I will go back and do line edits and mark the good and the bad and, hopefully, be able to explain why for both.

NAE: Is there one specific thing that you gravitate toward while critiquing?

Anna: Not grammar. Seriously, I can read right over the worst mistakes.
But plot and character consistency are vitally important to me, as is making sure every character has strong motivation for their actions. If I don’t know or believe why your heroine is going down into the dark basement, there will be many scribbled notes from me.

Crits for Water Quickfires: And, go.
1. Oxford comma? Always. Can’t have strange items unintentionally pairing up.
2. Should "I like him too" have a comma before "too"? Yep. (Although I always forget to add it.)
3. Italicize or underline? Italicize.
4. How do you separate scenes: #, ***, line break? Umm…can I combine answers? I do ###.
5. What's your favorite verb? Quash.


Thanks, Anna. Love that: quash.

Anna’s debut novel, A Secret in Her Kiss, is available here.

A rare beauty, raised in the exotic heart of the mysterious East, Mari Sinclair knows it’s time to end her 
career as a British spy when she narrowly avoids a brush with death. Unfortunately, there are those
who think otherwise—and they are not above using blackmail to keep Mari in the game.

Saddled with a handsome, duty-obsessed "minder" to ensure that she completes—and survives—one
last mission, Mari is incensed . . . for her guardian, Major Bennett Prestwood, is simply too dedicated, too
unbending, and too disarmingly attractive. But in the face of dark secrets and deadly treacheries, as the true peril
 to Mari is slowly revealed, loyal soldier Bennett realizes that to save and win this extraordinary woman, he will
 have to do the unthinkable and break the rules—rules that passion and desire have suddenly, irrevocably changed.


If you’d like to find out if your characters have that vital consistency, check out Anna’s Crits for Water 25-page plus query auction here

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Crits for Water Interview with Intern Brent Taylor

(Or, You Can Call Me Critiquer)

A charity water fact: Every day, women miss work and children miss school just to find water. Filthy water.

Intern and freelance critiquer Brent Taylor would rather these women able to work and their children in school. He'd also like to provide them with clean water, which is why he’s helping the 2012 Crits for Water campaign. He’s donated a 50-page critique of a young adult or middle grade manuscript (available Wednesday, April 18th). Two things about him: he’s super nice and he’s got style.

Say hello to Brent.


Brent Taylor, former gymnast and definite Kelly Cutrone <3er, loves kids' books and coffee,
and he interns for a literary agent.  
He also blogs about books and occasionally writes.


NAE: What valuable lesson have you learned from one of your critiquers/beta-readers (feel free to share who it was)?

Brent: I have to give a shout-out to my friend J.H. Trumble, author of DON’T LET ME GO, who has graciously critiqued every piece of writing of mine since the day we met. J.H. has ripped apart every essay, every research paper, and really taught me precision.

NAE: What’s one of the worst mistakes a critiquer can make?

Brent: A big mistake I think is seeing a plot point, or an emotional arc in a story, and mistaking a simple dislike for a weakness. As far as tastes go, we’re all completely different, and every person has a different idea of the perfect story. However, I witness a lot of critiquers pointing out something they didn’t like and illustrating it to the writer as a weakness, when really it’s not—it’s a difference in taste.

NAE: When you critique someone’s work, what is your general process?

Brent: I do whatever the writer asks me to do, so it is case by case, but generally I line edit as I go along, and then I look at the manuscript as a whole and think about all the weaknesses I can pick up.

NAE: Is there one specific thing that you gravitate toward while critiquing (e.g., plot, grammar, characters, emotions, etc.)?

Brent: Definitely characters and their emotions, but I’d like to think I have a good eye for plotting as well.

NAE: Is the process for critiquing different age groups and genres different?

Brent: Why yes, Mary, it is. If I’m reading a YA, I’m more focused on the characters and their emotions. With Middle Grade I’m more hard on the voice and the concept. If I’m reading a, say, adult mystery, I’ll be more hard on the plotting and tension-building.

Crits for Water Quickfires: And, go.

1.    Oxford comma?   Yes, yes, yes. A million times yes.

2.    Should “I like him too” have a comma before “too”?   Depends on personal preference. When I’m texting and in a hurry, the comma goes flying out the window. When I’m all Fitzgerald-y, commas adorn every other word.

3.    Italicize or underline?   Italicize, because the Modern Language Association tells us so.

4.    How do you separate scenes: #, ***, or line break?   Three asterisks centered is industry standard.

5.    What is your favorite verb?   SHOPPING. READING. EATING. All fantastic verbs that hold mightily dear places in my young heart.


Thanks, Brent! If you’re wondering if the first 50 pages of your YA/MG manuscript has the beginnings of an emotional arc, take a stab at his Crits for Water critique here (on Wednesday, April 18th).

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Crits for Water Interview with Agent Sara Megibow

(Or, Speak to Me)

A charity water fact: 1 in 4 children in Africa die by the age of five from water-related disease.

Sara Megibow wants to save the lives of these children during the 2012 Crits for Water campaign (run by her client) with the help of the online writing community (read: you). Sara told me that she’s excited to help, so much so that she’s donated a 30-page critique to the cause (up for bid starting now: Monday, April 16th).

Meet Sara.


Sara Megibow is an Associate Literary Agent at the Nelson Literary Agency.
The Nelson Literary Agency specializes in representing young adult fiction,
romance (all genres except category and inspirational), science fiction and fantasy,
commercial and women’s fiction (including chick lit) and high concept literary fiction.
The Nelson Literary Agency is a member of AAR, RWA, SFWA and SCBWI. Submission
guidelines can be found here. Visit Sara’s Publisher’s Marketplace site to learn more
about her personal tastes and recent sales. You can also find her on facebook, and on twitter.


NAE: What is your favorite thing about writing a critique?

Sara: As an agent, I choose manuscripts from the slush pile when they really speak to me. Yes, I do offer editorial services to my clients, but my mantra in general is that I'm looking for books to sell, not books to edit. So, if I review a manuscript that's great, but not sell-able as is, I don't offer a critique and I pass on representation. That's one difference between an agent and a critique group. However, when I do fall in love with a book and start working with an author, then we talk about the manuscript and I love the process of digging in to see how we can make the work stronger. For me, my favorite part about writing the critique is when the book is speaking to me, I feel connected to it, and there is something obvious that I see and can point out to the writer to make it stronger.

NAE: Why is critiquing important?

Sara: For me, critiquing is important because I am hoping that an author presents to me a polished manuscript. When that happens, then I can offer representation and we can go on to sell books, make money and woo readers. I love it when clients tell me they are part of a strong and helpful critique group - it's a wonderful asset to a writing career!

NAE: Your critique style is like which of the following: Red Pen Editor, Overall Commenter, Supportive Critic, You’ll Know It If I Catch It? 

Sara: Good question! Hmmmm….I guess I'd call myself a supportive critic. I tell my clients that their books are always their art. I may have suggestions, but ultimately it's their work and they can veto my suggestions. If I'm working with an author already, then I do a ton of cheerleading. Lots of "great work" and "you can do it."

NAE: What do your clients tell you they most appreciate about your agenting style?

Sara: I tend to be pretty chatty with my clients. They receive an email from me at least once a week - with sales numbers, submissions updates, subsidiary rights updates, marketing ideas, contract updates, etc. Many authors say it takes forever to hear back and that's true. It's not because agents and editors are drinking martinis all day (I wish), but because we're insanely busy. So, I try to keep my client list small and be as communicative as possible. That's the one thing I can add to this journey called publishing that I feel my clients appreciate.

NAE: Name one of your favorite 2012 books that is coming out or already released.

Sara: I read an advanced reader copy of KEEPING THE CASTLE by Patrice Kindl. It was absolutely hilarious, very smart and one of the best books I've read in years! It's basically a satire of a regency historical romance in which a young woman must marry well in order to support her family, but the mysterious stranger acting as her business liaison keeps getting in the way. I can't say enough good things about this book - if you've ever read an historical romance novel or want a truly unique and literary novel, this is it.

NAE: What specific type/style of manuscript is on your Must Have list this season?

Sara: Excellent question! The answer isn't an easy one though, so here we go...

Anything unique and well-written. I know that feels like a cop-out, but it's the truth. I would sign 10 more urban fantasy authors if the best manuscripts I saw this year were urban fantasy. I don't shop by genre or sub-genre, but rather by quality of writing. If I open a submission and fall head over heels in love, then that's the book for me. I rep science fiction and fantasy of all sub-genres and for all reading ages (except picture book or chapter book). I rep romance (all sub genres except category and inspirational). And I rep young adult and middle grade fiction. So, if it's in one of those categories, I will read the query with relish. After the query stage, my decision is based on quality of writing. This is why critiques help so much - the manuscript must be 99% polished in order for me to offer representation. It's my job then to take it to 100% polished before sending it to editors. Then, the editor will spend just as much (if not more) time making it 101% polished so it can compete in the marketplace.


Because Sara is so committed to the Crits for Water campaign, this is her second year of participating. Check out her interview from the 2011 Crits for Water campaign here. Thank you, Sara, for this interview and for your dedication to this wonderful cause.

Do you think you have a unique, well-written project to send Sara? Bid on her 30-page critique on Monday the 16th to see how much your work speaks to her. Good luck!