by Diana Savage
The prospect of receiving professional feedback at a writers conference can be both exhilarating and frightening, especially if you’ve never been in a critique session before. Here are seven ways to get the most out of the experience.
1. Polish your manuscript until it’s in the best shape possible.
This usually means your document:
- is created in Microsoft Word or compatible software
- has one-inch margins
- has double-spaced text
- is in a font such as 12-point Times New Roman
- contains no extra spacing between paragraphs
- has an indention of 1/4 to 1/2-inch at the beginning of each paragraph
- places page numbers in the header or footer, not in the text itself
- when in hard copy, is printed in black ink on white, letter-size (8.5 x 11) paper, one side only, and is paper-clipped together, not stapled
2. When presenting your work, inform the editor about your intended market or audience.
This will help him or her offer suggestions that may give you a better chance of being accepted. While you won’t want to argue with the professional, of course, it’s fine to give a brief explanation if you feel he/she is offering advice based on a misconception. (“I forgot to tell you I’m writing this for Rolling Stone, not Focus on the Family.”)
3. If the critiquer uses a term or offers a suggestion you don’t understand, ask for clarification.
The writing backgrounds of people vary widely, and the professional, while not wanting to talk down to anyone, also doesn’t want to confuse you with an explanation that may be too advanced. He/she won’t know your situation unless you communicate it.
4. Don’t expect the professional to have additional time for a follow-up critique unless he/she offers.
Don’t expect the author/editor to provide complimentary follow-up critiques unless he/she offers to do so. These folks lead busy lives and often support themselves using their literary skills. If you desire more input, feel free to ask the professional what the fee might be for a paid critique.
5. Remember that you, personally, are not being criticized.
Your work is being evaluated for its strengths as well as for areas you can improve. This is an opportunity for you to hone your craft and become a more effective writer.
6. Bring pen and paper or your mobile device for taking notes.
You’ll want to remember any helpful comments the professional didn’t already put in writing for you.
7. Apply the suggestions while you still remember them.
You’ve invested time, emotional energy, and (sometimes) finances to get a critique. Make sure you capture the information so you can use it to your full advantage.
Diana Savage is the principal at Savage Creative Services, LLC, providing professional writing, editing, and speaking services. Her latest book is 52 Heart Lifters for Difficult Times: Promises of Hope and Encouragement from God (Harvest House). Learn more at DianaSavage.com. © 2014 by Diana Savage. All rights reserved.