(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.