Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Advice from Along Came Polly

As I start to prepare for the start of my 2011 conferences, I was reminded by the scene below just how...painfully...interesting, many pitch sessions can go.

This is between Ben and Jennifer in ALONG CAME POLLY, when she shows him her idea for her children's picture book:

B: Huh.

J:You hated it.

B:No, I don't. It's just... It's very graphic for a children's book.

You know, like this one: "The Boy with a Nub for an Arm."

J: Well, that one has a moral.

You know, to teach kids they gotta be careful
when they're playing with fireworks.

B: Right. No, and-and I think it's brilliant, by the way. Seriously.

J: Uh-huh.

B: I mean, like, you really convey...the pain and the fear, and I love the little doggy too.

But... And I don't mean this in a bad way.

J: Right.

B: Just what were you thinking?

What I really liked about this scene was how it puts into perspective the whole process. It’s an awkward process for both of us but…it’s only purpose is to help you take your career to the next level. I'm doing the best I can TO help because I DO care about your path as a writer. Even if I don't like an idea or have feedback to give, don't take it the wrong way; take it as my encouragement to try and steer you toward success.

Obviously (hopefully) I'd never be so blunt, even IF presented with "The Boy with a Nub for an Arm," but it can definitely be a struggle sometimes to CONSTRUCTIVELY criticize based on, essentially, an idea alone.

So take advice with a grain of salt – but take it in in the right mind frame to begin with.


  1. It's all in the outlook, truly. Stepping back from our work after a critique can be helpful. It can give new eyes to dissect the advice we receive and see what can be used. This recently happened to me. I had an author make a few suggestions of how I might spice up my ms, making it even more different. At first my shoulders hit the floor. But then I contemplated her thoughts. Although I didn't use her suggestions, she did spark a new idea which added intrigue and gave the story a quicker pace.

  2. That movie totally stole my next book idea.

  3. What Sheri said. One of my CPs had a editor crit her work at a conference and at first glance it looked like the page was bleeding with what the editor did. But after reading through it I thought they were excellent suggestions. My CP couldn't see it, but I think she will once she gets some distance from it. :D

  4. The harshest critiques are the ones that suggest we need more revision than we'd expected, or in some cases, re-envisioning of the whole work.

    If accurate, they often take months (or longer for a novel) to integrate and implement.

    All part of the wonderful journey that is writing.


  5. True. Faithful are the wounds of a friend. I had a friend who was an editor. I wrote a story and gave it to her, asking her to pull out the stops in telling me what was wrong. When it came back, there was more red than black, but honestly I didn't mind. I learned a lot.

  6. I loved that movie. That scene really showcases how awkward giving and receiving critism can be.

    I have no real insight or advice to I'll just say good luck at the conferences!lol

  7. Oh LOL, I'd forgotten about that movie. Too funny.

  8. I don't really have any profound insight either but I have to admit, I'm one of those who enjoys critique--even if it's harsh. Yeah, I might be down in the dumps about it for a day or two, but generally, there's a reason for it and often it opens my eyes and shows me a different path to go on the story. Or, if need be, to completely revamp the story and change it. It's hard but sometimes necessary. :)

    Good luck at the conferences! One of these years I'll make it to one of the big ones...but the pitch sessions terrify me (not such a great speaker; tend to stutter and ramble. A lot.)

  9. Hi, Natalie,

    Wondering what conferences you'll be speaking at this year?

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