Other boards, or why do I torture myself like this...?

Having got through my ms and several hefty revisions, I’ve reached that awful precipice where it’s time to cast it on unknown and treacherous waters. So I sent out ONE query letter to my absolute top-choice agent (testing the canyon with a toenail) and then, because I can’t spend my entire life hiding out at the barn and am really trying to resist drinking before 10 a.m., I posted the query for comments on another, very active writer’s board.

They tore me to shreds! :cry: :blush: :cry:

Much of the criticism was probably very valid and useful. Mostly, though, it had the effect of making me want to duct-tape my fingers up and keep them far far away from any instruments of creation for the rest of my natural life.

I thought it was a good query. I’ve read countless articles, examples,instructions on what makes a good query letter. Apparently I was wrong.

No worries, I am NOT about to subject this lovely community to it. :blush: I am just here to crawl back under my rock and pretend I live in a world where everyone knows and accepts my charm and infallibility forever. Sigh.

I’m thinking that perhaps babysitting small cuddly puppies might be a more appropriate avocation.

If there is one thing I have learned over the years (as few as I have lived) it is that there are no “absolutes” when it comes to stylistic views of things. Sure, some views are more “right” than others when it comes to details. That does not mean your efforts have been in vain.

Look at the criticism like water. Now be a duck. Live in it, live from it, but let it roll off your back. Otherwise you will drown and be of no use to anyone, including yourself.

Also, and I say this with some trepidation, my impression of many writers’ boards is that they are full of people just waiting to tear others to shreds. I’ve hung around enough of them to know that I would never put anything up on most of them. True, sometimes you see writing that is utterly dreadful, and the comments of “take a class” and “learn how to spell and construct a sentence” are quite valid, if put rather harshly. But there is a sad underclass of grammarian would-be-writer with an inflated sense of his (it’s usually a he) own authority, who would rather question your use of the Oxford comma on pages 6 and 9 than mention your clever logodaedely on page 13 or your subtle synecdoche in Chapter 7 (although such things should probably be kept out of a query letter).

And if they’re anything like me, most of them will just be jealous that you finished something. :slight_smile:

Good luck!

All the best,

P.S. If anyone does know of any really great and supportive writers’ boards, for whichever genre, be sure to let me know about them!

There is this little board out there for a company that is something like “writing and coffee”. The company makes this little program that a bunch of folks swear by. Something about “scribbling”. The folks there are nice and they while there isn’t a huge amount of posts asking for critiques of writing, they have never hesitated to venture a good natured poke in the eye when you ask for it.


And another problem with writers’ boards is that there’s always someone who uses words like “logodaedely” that you have to look up in order to work out what they’re saying… :wink:

Actually I’m not certain that the Internet is a good tool for serious assessment of and help with written work. There must be closed groups where all the members trust each other well enough not to use critiquing as a blood sport but I’ve never encountered them (perhaps Keith should start one). I suspect a face-to-face writing group, where there 's a greater likelihood of reciprocal restraint and it’s a lot easier to combine validation and encouragement with serious tweaks and suggestions, would be a much better bet.

But by the way, Zoe, it’s not you they tore to shreds, not at all, it’s just the draft letter. The two are very different.

As Keith says, good luck!


P.S. Never heard the phrase “testing the canyon with a toenail” before. Like it! Will steal it! :wink:

Heh heh, I was aware of the irony while I was looking up the spelling myself, given that I haven’t used the word in years. I believe, along with “librocubicularism” (which after I had discovered the joys of the internet I looked up to find was made up by some author - it means reading in bed), Trivial Pursuit is responsible for my knowledge of this word rather than any great storage bank in my brain dedicated to obscure words you shouldn’t use unless you want to seem like an arse. I rerouted that part of my brain to more useful pursuits when I left my twenties behind. :slight_smile:

What about the Writing -> Scrivenings topic? Couldn’t we kind of steal that section?

Unless of course KB wants to add a specific section. Might I suggest call it “Rip it to shreds” in honor of mum’s recently eviscerated letter?

I knew I should never have left home. :blush:

Many thanks for all the encouragement and support, which I appreciate more than any of you will ever know.

Jaysen, I did steel myself and thicken my skin and some of the comments were in fact helpful and valid. But I’m not going back there anytime soon. As much out of fear of being polished past all recognition as anything else.

And Hugh, feel free to take my toenails anytime, anywhere. :slight_smile:

I am sure that your parents are glad that you are not still living at home.

Exactly what did you use as a skin thickener? I think Dr M recommends that stuff LeD uses. Personally I prefer a stiff half dozen shots of the Captain.

:open_mouth: :blush: Wanton floozy!! Have you no shame!?

Oh, jealous puss, Fluff. :smiling_imp:

JEALOUS!!? Moi!!? Moi!!? Strumpet!! :imp:

Tch Tch, Fluff. Retract those fangs. :wink:

I believe there is some twee homily about being careful what you wish for that might be appropriate here:

au.news.yahoo.com/thewest/a/-/of … from-body/

The secrets: reciprocity and accountability

A really useful approach (i.e. it worked for me) is to locate a small cadre of [aspiring] writers and commit to form a Crit Group – looking over and commenting on each others’ work. The reciprocity and the lack of anonymity moderates the ugliness of comments.

It’s easy for nameless people to take nasty potshots – cheap by definition* – but when there’s a ongoing relationship with ‘brightness of the future’ … and you know your work is going to be in the hotseat, you tend to work that much harder to express even quite serious reservations about someone else’s writing in a constructive fashion. (Also, you’re so grateful that people would take the trouble to give you feedback, you want to thank them with decent thoughtful feedback of your own.)

This accountability is the opposite of the nasty drive-by-shootings that can offend so much.

Peter * http://www.thepaepae.com/potshots-from-behind-a-mask-of-anonymity-are-by-definition-cheap/474/

I like that idea, because as an aspiring writer, rather than an actual published writer - I know that anything I offered up for critique early on would probably be ripe for a good kicking. It would truly deserve it. But I know that if done in a vicious way that I would be emotionally wounded and more likely to self deconstruct, or maybe get very defensive and thus not take in even valid points. Constructive, thoughtful criticism is more likely to help a person grow and improve. People point scoring at your expense is a common internet factor, thanks to the level of anonymity that many choose.

I also suspect that the best writers would be the ones who could criticise in the most supportive way, and wanna-be’s who do the attacking, as if by pulling you down they could rise higher.

How could I refuse?


You know the old saying, “You can’t see the forest for the trees”?

Well, I must confess with some chagrin that this morning I got waylaid in the lower level of the acorn bar waiting for my gin and tonic. If only I’d kept my little fingers wrapped around the glass instead of sending out a follow-up snail mail query letter to one I emailed my absolute top-choice agent last week (which is how this whole thread started).

Here is the sad story in its entirety. :cry:

I spent the week thickening my skin and trying to take the more constructive comments of the hatchet crew at the Spurs and Whips LitCrit board into profitable account. I came up with what I (and my besotted husband) felt was a far punchier (please, no puns), more effective query. Concurrently, last night, I discovered to my horror that my original absolute top-choice agent did not accept email queries (though this seems to be a matter of some debate, contradicted in various sources).

Ergo, I thought, here is a fine way to ingratiate myself with her, by sending a follow up SNAIL MAIL query, apologizing for the duplication and my erstwhile ignorance, thereby letting her see the revised, new and improved query.

My husband helped me proofread it, I signed it with a flourish, put my SASE together, and excitedly and HOPEFULLY (sorry, Hugh) mailed it off.

When I got back from the barn this afternoon, I smugly pulled up my copy of the letter, which of course I’d saved, just to pat myself on the proverbial and metaphorical back. To my absolute horror, in my zeal to somehow meld the opening of the original email with the body of the new and improved query letter, I had ENTIRELY forgotten to mention

  1. the title of the book
  2. the genre
  3. the word count

Minor details I know. :blush: :blush: :blush:

So, back to the acorn to hide out until I learn my abc’s. Garcon, more wine please. Hope she at least gets a chuckle out of it. :cry:

When learning to write my query letter (which was quite successful) I got a lot of help and excellent feedback from the Querytracker.net forums. That was a really supportive (and amazingly successful) bunch. I support QT financially, even though I’m no longer looking for an agent, because I think they do such good work.

Most writer’s boards are a waste of time, unfortunately. It’s natural to want to search out the company of peers, but it’s very hard to find a group of your true peers: people who are at the same level of commitment, passion, and talent. I have been in a few groups like that and when you can find them, they’re amazing. But you have to search through the dross for a few golden nuggets, and inevitably there’s a breakaway into smaller, more exclusive subgroups.

The Woman in Question, or She Who Shall Not Be Named (sod it! Why not!), Lady Voldemort, accompanied by one of her pseudo intellectual, female Death Eater cohorts, took to the skies yesterday. Not on their broomsticks, I hasten to add, but with the aid of one of, bmibabys Advanced Turbo Props. They are now in that land of, ’Authors, Poets and Playwrights’: Ireland (or so Im led to believe).

Once more, ensconced into the bosom of her family (a Gaelic family, very much influenced by its genetic links with Attila and his Hunic hordes), shell be there for the next two weeks.

The above, means that me and Fluff acknowledge no imperatives whatsoever, pertaining to domestic issues, save for the foraging of cat food and manfood (Guinness; Jameson; pork pies; strong cheese; spring onions and freshbaked crusty granary wholemeal rolls).

Defiance of the customary domestic conventions, also means, Fluff and I have a surfeit of time on our hands/paws, with which to do, just as we deem fit. Shell probably do what she does best i.e. eat, sleep, toilet and preen. I, on the other hand, having been moved to my inner core, by the dastardly treatment meted out to the alluring Zoe, aka Mollys Mum, at the hands of a bunch of nob-eds, on another Non-Scriv forum, do proffer the following proposal: I need my sensible hat hat for this. It`ll probably be yonks before I find it…tomorrow, most likely…well definitely, actually. But I am serious. So, back tomorrow, Sunday, mid am
Till then
Take care