Thursday, November 19, 2009

Open for Criticism

I just read where occasionally (and recently) a publisher will post an author's unedited manuscript online for a limited time and ask for reader's input. The one that occurred recently was further developed and ultimately published.

Years ago, Lisa Scottoline's publisher posted her first chapter online and asked for feedback. Apparently the writing was so bad it was difficult to figure out the plot. By the time the book was released, it was wonderful. ***read comments to learn what REALLY happened. ***

My first thought was wonder at the courage of the author, then curiosity as to the scope and quality of feedback. Finally, my wonder centered (and continues to center) around the question of how in the world those lousy manuscripts made it as far as they did.

Doesn't seem fair, does it?

CR: Urgent Care by CJ Lyons.

It's all better with friends. 


  1. I'm grinning at your conclusion, glad I'm not the only one thinking it.

  2. It does seem strange, what will make an agent take something very rough on, versus the thousands they turn away. I guess some great potential is sensed? Or else perhaps the ms has some important person's vote of confidence behind it? Still, I think for every story of hand-holding toward publication there are the most of us who must struggle and claw for each foot up the mountain.

  3. For the record, that isn't the way it happened. I should know, since I'm Lisa Scottoline. I had written a number of books and loved emailing with my readers who wanted to improve their writing, with an eye toward getting published. (I'm a huge advocate of unpublished writers and do everything I can to help them, because I was rejected for five years and it was no fun.) So I said, "let's have some practice editing, and I will critique," and I myself posted an unfinished first chapter of MISTAKEN IDENTITY on my site, I got thousands of responses, all of which I read and wrote back to the readers/editors, and I changed a few phrases in the chapter in the final draft. I'm proud of my writing exercise, think it helped people, and would never hand in a terrible manuscript. I'm proud of MISTAKEN IDENTITY and thanked all my reader/editors in the book itself. So that's the true story, and the fact is that there are lots of people who deserve to be published, and I pray that one day they will all be. My advice is to persevere through the rejection, believe in yourself, educate yourself by reading the books of others, and write the best book you can. And it can happen. I have a video talking about writing and how to get published at my website, which you're welcome to view. All best, Lisa Scottoline

  4. Well, Sheila and Jenny, we have the truth. Although, pretending for a moment we didn't, I'd have to say there had to be a sense of potential. Publishers wouldn't take the time to do something mean-spirited. The person who attempted to participate in Lisa's unfinished chapter experiment (I don't know if he did or didn't) is known to be a very tough critic.

    Lisa, wow. Humbled. And glad you cleared up the perception that this was your first chapter of your first book posted by your publisher.

    For the record, my unedited words stink. I win the prize for SFDs. But I've worked hard to learn the craft (books and courses and conferences) and have some great critique partners. Still, to put up any of my SFD for the world to see would be masochistic.

    Lisa, when my granddaughter began law school, I introduced her to your books as Christmas presents. She graduates this year and might actually have time to read them.

  5. All I can say is--I am so glad Peg's fantastic blog is visited by the equally fantastic Lisa Scottoline! That is so wonderful...Lisa, there are some terrific posts here, and Peg, now you can take heart when your slog takes fewer than five years!

  6. I've been at this quest for almost five years. I haven't been shopping a ms for that long, but I know that nothing comes overnight. Well, NOW I know that nothing comes overnight. In the beginning it was another story. I knew I was the next Stephen King/Dean Koontz all wrapped up in a package that couldn't grow facial hair. How unique would that have been?

    So, here's the deal whoever reads this. THE ONLY WAY YOU LOSE IS IF YOU QUIT. So just don't quit.

    Deni Deitz has a mantra that I love . . . "If you drop a dream, it breaks." So for all in heaven and earth that's good, stick to your dream. Believe in the process. Understand the patience and persistence. And know that for every one amazing book that gets published, ten others didn't simply because someone gave up. (I'm making up that equation, but you get what I mean.)

    Get your manuscript done. Make it the best that you can. Start on the next one. And reach out to find the right agent, the right editor, at the right time. It might not be today, but it could be tomorrow.