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).


J.H. Trumble said...

Love the interview, though saying I "ripped apart" your work, Brent, is a little extreme, don't you think?

On the other hand, folks, Brent has always given me valuable feedback, and almost every single criticism has been later backed up by my agent or editor. I've learned to take his response to my work very seriously and save myself that later "I told you so." :)

An early congratulations to the eventual winner!

BookChic said...

Great interview! Brent's an awesome guy! :)

Jessica Silva said...

Brent is so fabulous <3

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