Thursday, January 20, 2011


I recently entered a critique contest.  After I received the comments I talked about them with one of my trusted beta's  and a good friend who's familiar with my WIP.  It took a question from my beta reader to really make me question my sanity?

Did I know what the person who was reading my work wrote?  The answer, I'm ashamed to say, was no.  I really knew nothing about the person-- had just entered to get another perspective on my work.

I realized after answering this question that I was the one who dropped the ball.  If I was sending my MS to an agent, I would research and send it to someone who represents MG Fantasy, not Adult Sci-fi.

Now, the comments weren't horrible, and a few of them were quite valid (and I have made some corrections based on them).  But, I would have been better served to know ahead of time more about the person and their writing.

Have you ever just sent work out to be read without knowing anything about the reader?  Did you learn anything from the comments you received?  Would you do it again, or would you take the time to learn more about the person first?


  1. That's a great point, Mary. Not to put too fine of a point on it, but I've seen quite a few critique contests being offered from people with questionable credentials.

    Here's an example of what I might look for: If it's an author/writer who has successfully nabbed an agent, but doesn't have a book out, I would gladly send them a query to critique. They've clearly demonstrated an ability to secure representation, so I'd trust their judgment on a query. However, I wouldn't necessarily be jumping at the chance for them to offer feedback on my writing.

    Your attitude is best: simply view it as suggestions from another critique partner, just not necessarily as an expert's opinion.

  2. Good distinction. A writer doesn't necessarily make a good fit as a beta tester just becaues they write. I've found that in order for me to make the best use of any comments/feedback I get, I need to understand who they are coming from and that person's frame of reference. Good post Mary!

  3. I think any perspective is valuable but if someone doesn't know or like your genre, you have to take them with a grain of salt. My agent represents YA sci-fi and fantasy and has an editor in the agency who is "high literary" while some of his comment were helpful, I definitely got more out of my agen't suggestions.

    I guess the point is, it's good to know how an ousider views your work, but someone familiar will be more helpful in the long run. Your efforts weren't wasted though, right?

    New follower...

  4. Yes! I did a whole blog post on researching your beta's like you should check out the babysitter you leave your kids with. But, I didn't realize that until later.

  5. Thanks for all the comments!

    EJ- you're right, the credentials are important!

    Lindsay-I agree- I need to know why you said what you said so I can grow as a writer. My critique partners either let me know with the comment in the WIP, in a quick note they tag in, in an e-mail or a chat.

    Welcome Demetria! Glad you stopped by. My efforts weren't wasted-- I was tuned into a line that drew people out of the story.

    Becky- I'll have to look back for that post!

    Becky--I'll have to check out that post :)

  6. This is an interesting post. I write fantasy and have had several crits from people who don't read the genre. They tend to be very good at spotting inconsistencies because they have to work a little harder to understand the "new" world. As for suggestions, I usually see if another person agrees or disagrees. One person might give me an off-base comment, but if two people say the same thing, it is something to consider. I'm glad you found the crit helpful at least.


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