Thursday, August 25, 2011

Critiques. The short answer is: Yes! If my own books aren't eating me alive.

I have been doing critiques for writers' conferences for years.  Because I couldn't attend SCBWI LA this year to do them at the conference, I decided to make amends to the 18 people I had let down by doing their sessions by phone and Skype, expanding from 20 minutes to at least an hour, and doing only 1 a day so that I could focus on each writer's work. This arrangement gives me enough time and emotional bandwidth to do my own writing, too, which is ever and always my priority.

The sessions have been amazing.  Each writer provided ten pages and a synopsis.  I read each ms carefully and marked up the pages with comments and suggestions.  Then we scheduled a phone or Skype appointment. 

At conferences, even the ones I love best, there is always a hurried feeling. This time, I could focus on the work, not the clock. We began by talking about the author's intent. Then we did a line by line examination of the 10 pages/synopsis. Once I understand what a writer is trying to create, I can focus on character voice, how to gracefully salt in backstory, build a seamless movie in the reader's mind, make sure the plot works, etc, etc...tailored for each writer. I always give concrete examples to support concepts and try to make sure everything is useful and tied to each writers' current work.  With a longer session, I could do all of that MUCH better. I can't describe how lovely it has been. I have never done crits like this, without a conference as the backdrop.  Each one was targeted and long enough to teach, instead of explain, writing skills.

So thanks to everyone who has been in touch. Yes, I am doing longer format critiques when I can fit them in. As much as I love to teach, I love writing far more, so I am sometimes unavailable. For rates, choices and all other details, you can contact me at kathleen duey at earthlink dot net 

*I feel compelled to add--I will send you the info and never bother you again. I only do a few critiques a month--and sending out the info to those who request it is NOT a way to build a mailing list. You will never hear from me again. I promise. I don't want a lot of critiques. I want to work with a few serious writers and save them all a couple of years. 

****Almost every critique so far begins with a discussion of voice. One writer I helped just sent me a redone/re-imagined first page. The voice is **astonishing.**   ((yay!))

*** Yes, I can evaluate a manuscript written for adults. Half my fan mail comes from adults. I am an adult. The writing skills needed for YA storytelling are the same as those needed to produce stories for adults.   

*** Long session yesterday and it was like watching a flower bloom. Lovely! 

***Two more long is so much fun to watch people light up when I point out the places where the text fails the story and they begin to see how a word, two words, can make all the difference.  

*** A great session with a writer who had created a really interesting premise, then got lost in the woods trying to do re-writes. We spent most the time relocating the core of the story, then finding ways to salt it into the shadows, the daily life of the character, the escalating uneasyness of the reader.
Photo by Roxyanne Young, author and friend...taken in San Louis Obispo 2012.  I got to teach two three hour sessions with published and prepublished authors. It was fun!

***Someone has asked if I am a harsh critiquer. NO. I'm a writer. I have friends who beta read my work before my editors see it. I know how it feels to hold your breath while someone reacts to your manuscript. I tell the truth, yes. Always. And I try to make it so that you can apply whatever skill we are addressing to everything you write from then on. 

Me. Closing speaker for the SCBWI international LA conference, staring out at 1200 writers and hoping to say at least one thing they could take home and USE. 


Joanna said...

I love this win/win experience. I also appreciate that you start with the author's intent, though this can of course change, each writer begins by feeling heard. I can't imagine any of the 18 were disappointed with this option.

kathleen duey said...

Thanks Joanna!!

jodi said...

Critique sessions do feel rushed at conferences, so I can really appreciate the time you are offering writers... and the opportunity for further explanation into text analysis and craft is fabulous! This is so great, Kathleen!

kathleen duey said...

Jodi, thanks for the kind words. It continues to amaze me!!

Martha Brockenbrough said...

What a wonderful gift of time and wisdom!

kathleen duey said...

Oh, Martha, thanks. Coming from you, it means a lot!

The sessions have all been remarkable!

Lori Boulard said...

Being one of the 18 incredibly fortunate recipients of Kathleen's SCBWI critiques, I can say it was indeed amazing. Thanks for steering me along a treacherous road and helping me write the best story I can. That's what it's all about, after all.

I have my last chapter left to write, and you're wrapping up, too. But...I'll be on your list of critique clients-to-be!
Happy Holidays!
Lori Boulard, aka Mergirl

kathleen duey said...

Lori, hello! Happy New Year!! I am thrilled to know you are that close to finishing. YAY!!! It's so exciting to complete a book!! I hope to be there soon, too...

all best,