Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Picture Book Party in March 2017

We are doing it again! (And yes I recycled this post. This time it's because I have a terrible cold and feel like poo. Please send chicken soup.) Spunky. Adorable. Heartwarming.

Those are some of the words that describe picture/chapter books. I'm happy to join with Sharon Chriscoe to do a little something for a group that is left out of most contests. This mini-contest is for you!

Tell your friends who write PB and please post on twitter and in your writer groups. We need help spreading the word. Also the twitter party will be for everyone, so I hope to see you there under the hashtag #PBParty. There will be daily topics that apply to all writers during the submission week.

The agent round will be Wednesday, April 5th - 7th. The submission day is Sunday, March 26th at noon Eastern time. Then Sharon and I will go through the entries and pick our favorites. I'm not sure how many entries will be chosen, but the number will be around 20. Sharon is my expert on this as I know less about picture books.

The Rules:

Please be a follower of this blog. You can click the "Join this Site" button in the left sidebar. Or if that is stubborn and won't work, you can subscribe to my newsletter or follow @Michelle4Laughs on twitter. I imagine I will be tweeting hints as well as partying!

You may send two entries for different manuscripts. That's two and only two, whether you have multiple pen names or multiple email addresses. Please be honest and not send more. Only one entry will be chosen per person. If you send two, still only one will be picked. Any attempt to cheat will result in entries thrown out (and sadly it has happened in the past.) 

On March 26 at noon Eastern the submission window opens. Do not send early or your entry will be deleted. You may resend at the correct time if this happens. I'm recycling an email address as I already have too many. Please send your entry to SunversusSnow at yahoo dot com

You should receive a confirmation email. If you do not, please contact me on twitter before resending.We want to get a good count of entries and duplicates make that harder. The window will stay open until we get 250 entries. However long that takes. It could be minutes or it could be days, but I'm betting there will be plenty of time this round.

This contest is only for finished and polished manuscripts. It has to be ready to go out to agents.

The Format:

Subject Line of your Email: PBParty: Title

Example:  PBParty: Hot Tub Santa

Inside the email please bold where bolded in my example. Single space with spaces between paragraphs. Use Times New Roman or equivalent font and the size should be 12. 

(Here's a trick to keep your paragraph spacing: copy and paste your entry into your email and then put in the line spaces. They seem to get lost when you copy and paste. It may look right but sending scrambles the spacing.)

Name: Sharon Chriscoe
Twitter Handle: @extracleansanta (optional)
Genre: (Here please tell us what type of picture book this is) Example: Board Book, Bedtime Rhyme, Nonfiction, Biography, etc. or List Chapter Book If this is OWNVOICES, please say so here!
Word Count: xxx (round to nearest ten, hundred for chapter books)


Your entire query letter here. Include your comps, bio, greeting, closing. Please be sure to note diversity and ownvoices in the query as well. (You may use whatever you want for a greeting. Dear Agent. Dear Michelle and Sharon.) 

Here is your chance to make your entry shine and make the agent fall in love with your words. 

First 50 Words:

Include your first 50 words for a picture book, 100 words for chapter books. Do not stop in the middle of a sentence. You may go over by one or two words to finish a sentence but not more than five. Single space and put spaces in between paragraphs. You may center or tab if appropriate.

Edit: For short picture books, less than 50 words may be submitted. Any count under 50 is allowed.

Also I will delete parts of entries after the contest ends, if requested. For those writers uncomfortable with their work being out there for all to see.  

Bonus: You may attach one illustration to your email to show an example of your artwork. If you don't have artwork, don't worry. 

I would like to thank Mel Stephenson for creating our logo artwork! Be sure to follow her at@paintandwords

That should cover about everything, but you may leave questions in the comments or on twitter. Don't forget the #PBParty hashtag.

We can't wait to see all the cuteness on March 26th! 

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Query Questions with John Bowers

Writers have copious amounts of imagination. It's what makes their stories so fantastic. But there's a darker side to so much out of the box thinking. When a writer is in the query trenches, their worries go into overdrive. They start pulling out their hair and imagine every possible disaster.

Here to relieve some of that endless worrying is a series called Query Questions. I'll ask the questions which prey on every writer's mind, and hopefully take some of the pain out of querying. These are questions that I've seen tossed around on twitter and writing sites like Agent Query Connect. They are the type of questions that you need answers for the real expert--agents!

If you have your own specific query question, please leave it in the comments and it might show up in future editions of Query Questions as I plan to rotate the questions.

No, I haven't forgotten about interviews with agents, and finally, here is a new one. Thanks to John Bowers of the Bent Agency for getting back to me and sharing his thoughts about being an agent. 

Do you look at sample pages without fail or only if the query is strong?

I always look at the pages someone shares with me. Even on those occasions when I can't make heads or tails of the concept presented in the query letter, I feel that it's important to see what the writing is really like. Some writers have a hard time putting together a strong, compelling pitch, but that doesn't necessarily mean they aren't a great writer.

How open are you to writers who have never been published?

I'm totally open to unpublished writers. I have a lot of respect for someone who has toiled away on their own writing and then finally feels they have something to share that they really believe in.

How important are comp titles? Is it something you want to see in a query? Are movie/tv reference okay as comp titles?

While not necessarily essential, I appreciate a writer sharing comp titles in a query. They can be really helpful for a few reasons. A writer offering their own comp titles immediately alerts me to the sort of fiction they read and admire as well as the titles they think their work most belongs next to on a shelf. That sort of sign post is really helpful for providing context for when I dig into the pages shared.

Do you prefer a little personalized chit-chat in a query letter or would you rather hear about the manuscript?

Personalized chit-chat can be nice, but the most important thing is really the meat of the pitch. Is the concept strong? Do the comp titles given resonate with me? Is the voice in the pages shared compelling?

When a writer nudges with an offer, what length of time is helpful to give you enough time to consider? A week? Two weeks?

I appreciate when a writer checks in with me about an offer. I don't expect any more than one week's time to then get back to them with a decision.

Many agents say they don't care if writers are active online. Could a twitter account or blog presence by a writer tip the scales in getting a request or offer? And do you require writers you sign to start one?

This is not necessarily something that I look for from fiction writers. It is good for a nonfiction writer to have some sort of platform though.

If a writer makes changes to their manuscript due to feedback should they resend the query or only if material was requested? Does it make a difference if the changes are from an R&R with another agent?

If a writer has revised their work, I appreciate the chance to have a second look. It doesn't make a difference for me if their revision notes came from another agent.

Do you consider yourself a hands-on, editorial type of agent? Does a manuscript have to be sub-ready or will you sign stories that need work?

I am fairly hands on editorially, but I also like to be very clear with writers about how much editorial feedback they are looking for in the first place. I don't want to offer a bunch of editorial suggestions if the writer isn't so open to them!

What is your biggest query pet peeve? Is there anything that automatically sinks a query for you?

I think it's important for a query letter to be well put together just at first glance. It's like the first 30 seconds of an interview. The first glance/first impression displays how serious a writer really is about their work and the relationship they hope to establish. This would mean: there aren't any typos, the font is consistent throughout (size and type), and they addressed me directly (not for whom it may concern, etc).

What are some of your favorite movies or books to give us an idea of your tastes?

I love gritty Southern stories. Anything from the movie Mud to the first season of True Detective really captures my imagination. I also love tense, thought provoking stories that play with futurism and dystopia like Ex-Machina and Black Mirror. Nonfiction works that seek to pull back the veil of how the world works - think Adam Curtis' recent documentary Hypernormalisation - just really excite me. 

John Bowers represents adult literary fiction and nonfiction in the areas of history, finance, media theory, politics, and science.

I’m from Richmond, Virginia and studied English literature at Virginia Commonwealth University. After graduating with a master’s degree in teaching, I spent a few years teaching English and Drama at American International schools in Colombia and Costa Rica. There I engaged in community outreach initiatives, picked up surfing, and after one too many eye-rolls trying to get kids to fall in love with Shakespeare, I packed my bags for Brooklyn.
Before joining the Bent Agency, I worked in literary scouting, where I read fiction and non-fiction and recommended titles for foreign publishing and film/TV adaptation. I now help handle the Bent Agency’s foreign rights and am also building a list of literary fiction and serious non-fiction for adults.
For fiction, I’m looking for Southern Gothic and Southern-influenced literary fiction along the lines of Ron Rash, Cormac McCarthy and anything in the tradition of titans like Flannery O’Connor. I would also love to see idea-driven science fiction such as Ursula K. Le Guin's THE DISPOSSESSED, dystopian fiction such as Nick Harkaway's THE GONE-AWAY WORLD and stories that make the world feel dystopian, like Kurt Vonnegut's classic, SLAUGHTERHOUSE-5.
For non-fiction, I’m interested in narrative non-fiction in the vein of Beth Macy’s FACTORY MAN and sweeping historical non-fiction like RIVER OF DOUBT and KING LEOPOLD’S GHOST. I’m open to projects that engagingly distill topics regarding culture, media theory, finance, and popular science much in the way of Michael Lewis and Malcolm Gladwell’s acclaimed works. I’m deeply intrigued by stories that help us better understand our world and anything that sets forth strong characters, edgy and expansive themes, and new perspectives.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017


Join the fun! 

Come chat with a group of science fiction and fantasy authors from Harper Voyager. The chat will be on twitter at 3:00 pm and 8:00 pm EST this Thursday, February 23rd. Find the chat at #SFFChat.

Whether you write science fiction and fantasy or not, there's bound to be useful writer information shared. We plan to talk about querying, world building, character creation, writing a page turner and even book promo and marketing! 

See you there!  

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Sun versus Snow Thoughts

Once again Sun versus Snow was a fantastic success with over a hundred requests and a success story already, and maybe some more in the works! Wink, wink! 

I think some of the new aspects to the contest worked out extremely well. Adding a place for optional twitter handles certainly made less work for the hosts. For example, we are able to easily notify authors when requests arrived a few days after the official end of the agent round. Anything that makes less work for Amy and I is a bonus!

I also think that allowing authors to include ownvoices with their genres helped make up for excluding the biographies. Now the authors can help us know if their stories are ownvoices so Amy and I no longer have to be unsure.

I was delighted that we received nearly 20 of these entries and seven out of thirty-two finalists were ownvoices! I hope to see those numbers grow with every contest!

The mentors and agents were delightful and enthusiastic as always! And I can't wait for next year!

That said I want to announce that I'm taking a few weeks away from blogging to focus on my WIP and get some rest. I'll be back when I have more contest news to share! Thanks everyone!  

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Sun versus Snow Agent Round 2017!

Today is the day our 21 amazing agents can begin reading the entries and making requests. Not only will they see the amazing entries here, but they can also make requests for Team Sun over at Amy Trueblood's blog!

As the agents move through the entries, please remember that contests are subjective. Our agents have a definitive idea of what they would like for their list. If they do not request, it DOES NOT mean the entry was not worthy. No matter what happens, you’ve got to keep querying and NEVER GIVE UP!
Before Team Snow freezes out Team Sun, here are some guidelines to remember:
There is no commenting in this round except for agents. Sorry, but no cheerleading as this may lead to an unconscious bias.
We are happy to see and retweet your thoughts and cheers over on Twitter under the #sunvssnow tag! That’s the place to hang out and have fun! I hope to see my Team Snow members present with their snow hats and mittens! We have a blizzard of amazing entries that are going to completely obscure Team Sun!

Watch both my and Amy’s Twitter feed as we will be tweeting when an agent makes an appearance!
Agents will consider entries at both the blogs regardless of whether they are Sun or Snow fans. Amy and I are hoping the agents go crazy with the requests! There is amazing talent on both our teams!
Good luck to all! And get out your snowballs and thermals because Team Snow is taking no prisoners!

SVS Agent Round 1: NOTORIOUS, Adult Historical Mystery

Genre: Adult Historical Mystery
Word Count: 75,000

Is Your Main Character hot or cold?

Even in summer, the wind off San Francisco Bay drives the mist through your clothes until the damp lies frigid under your skin. Some nights, Vespertine dreams of life in the sun atop one of the seven hills of the city, but not tonight.

She draws her heavy shawl tight and prays the westerly clears the confusion from her mind. No hot act of passion will solve Mr. Founar's murder, only a determined application of logic will organize the facts of the case into a solution like a winter freeze crystallizes mist into snowflakes.  

SVS Agent Round 2: LOVE INTERRUPTED, Adult Romance OwnVoices

Genre: Adult Romance #OwnVoices
Word Count: 75,000

Is Your Main Character hot or cold:

LOVE INTERRUPTED is a romance. There are two MCs.

Christine is hot. She's a woman working in a STEM field. She's had to fight to get where she is. She has no patience for stupidity or bullying.

Paul is cool under pressure. He needs steady nerves to take the kill shot when surrounded by smoke and gunfire. But, wow, he is also very HOT!

SVS Agent Round 3: TO LIVE, Adult Science Fiction

Title: TO LIVE
Genre: Adult science fiction
Word Count: 71,000

Main Character Hot or Cold:

Well I’m dead, but don’t assume that makes me cold. If your virtual afterlife was glitching like mine is, if you found yourself entangled in a conspiracy with humanity’s very future in the balance, well then you just might be as hot as I am.  

SVS Agent Round 4: DOG'S BREAKFAST, Adult Upmarket

Genre: Adult Upmarket
Word Count: 79,000

Is Your Main Character hot or cold: 
Veteran diplomat Andy Pulano has achieved a level of success but aches to rise to the top. He is cold to the bone and chillingly effective.

Hot on the inside, cool on the outside, Tara Zadani is a first-generation American, the daughter of Indian immigrants. She is a young woman, new to the world of diplomacy, with strong feelings about justice. Her ideals and love of life burn within her heart. But to succeed in her environment, she must be cool and calculating.

SVS Agent Round 5: CORPORATE GUNSLINGER, Adult Science Fiction

Genre: Adult Science Fiction
Word Count: 89,000

Is Your Main Character hot or cold: 

Kira presents cold, but inside she's a hot mess most of the time. As a professional gunfighter, she has to stay calm under pressure. When the pressure comes off, though, things can get weird. So, put her down as cold, but be ready for a sudden thaw. 

SVS Agent Round 6: SEEING MY SISTER, MG Contemporary

Genre: MG Contemporary
Word Count: 39,000

Is Your Main Character hot or cold: 

Renee is a hot character. She approaches life with fierce determination and enthusiasm, especially when it comes to figure skating. At home, Renee’s grit gets her in trouble more than it helps her. Though Renee loves her little sister, Justine, it’s hard for her when her parents spend every waking second obsessing over Justine’s disability. When Renee’s skating coach gets diagnosed with cancer, it makes Renee’s fragile world even more shakable. As Renee faces difficult challenges, she struggles to understand why so many bad things are happening.  

SVS Agent Round 7: I AM BECOME ANNABELLE, MG Fantasy

Genre: Middle Grade Fantasy
Word Count: 34,000

Is Your Main Character hot or cold?

Annabelle is cold. Given all she’s been through at such a young age, and the secrets she now keeps, she handles things coolly and calmly.


Genre: Middle Grade Mystery
Word Count:  52,000

My main character is hot, pretending to be cold.

I'm thirteen and a master at reinventing myself.  I've bounced around a lot of foster families and this one is my last shot.  I'll be whatever kid they want in order to stay.  But my new sister, Soledad, thought I was like her when she picked me from the database: a cold, analytical genius. She wants an assistant just like her to help track down her parents' killer.  But the deeper we dig into the case, the more I rely on my old instincts because the evidence feels all wrong.  Unfortunately, feelings are something Soledad won't accept, even when solving the case depends on it.

SVS Agent Round 9: THE MOJAVE FAILURES, MG Contemporary

Genre: Middle Grade Contemporary
Word Count: 43,000

Is Your Main Character hot or cold: 

Austin has already boiled over with disastrous results. Cold brought him even more attention. Neither way felt right. He doesn’t understand why his mind works the way it does. Questioning everything until his head pounds like a drum. His newest approach to is to stay lukewarm. But soon he’ll be back to his old life where it can get very frightening, amazingly fast. MOHAVE just might be a way for him to get control of his emotions and succeed for the first time.

SVS Agent Round 10: THE LAST DOUBLOON, MG Contemporary OwnVoices

Genre: MG Contemporary, "Ownvoices"
Word Count: 36,OOO

My MC is cool, impulsive but not explosive.

SVS Agent Round 11: THE LONE EARTH GIRL, YA Science Fiction

Genre: YA Science Fiction
Word Count: 78,000

Is Main Character hot or cold?
Nova is both; she has to be. Her peers are smarter, stronger, and have no problem letting her know it. But’s she’s adapted, having lived with them her whole life, so she chooses her battles. When something strikes her close to the bone she sidesteps, letting it pass. When the blade lodges into her marrow, run for the ships because the mountain flows molten rage. 

SVS Agent Round 12: PROMPOCALYPSE, YA Disaster Thriller

Genre: YA Disaster Thriller
Word Count: 68,000

Is Your Main Character hot or cold? 

No matter how much Sam might aim for a calm, cool personality all it takes is a spark to get her emotions flared up. With a tendency to rely on instinct and intuition instead of ice-cold logic, Sam’s spontaneous decisions have a tendency to combust into four-alarm fires. Whether she wants to admit it or not, Sam is fiery and stubborn.

What she hasn’t realized is that the fires in her heart show up for a reason; it’s a burning signal when something needs to change. Now, she just needs to learn how to harness those flames.

SVS Agent Round 13: HIDE ME AWAY, YA Thriller Ownvoices

Genre: YA thriller Ownvoices
Word Count: 62,000

Is your main character hot or cold? 

Tanvi believes she's cold. She has practiced years of controlling her feelings and emotions, afraid that she'd repeat the mistakes of her mom. But inside she aches for the warmth of a family and the love of her best friend.

SVS Agent Round 14: THE WITCH AND THE DEMON, YA Fantasy

Genre: YA Fantasy
Word Count: 75,000

Is Your Main Character hot or cold?

Ebba is cold as ice under pressure. Forced to fight against the eleven deadliest sorcerers in the world, she uses her wits and levelheadedness to survive. Ironically, her other weapon is blood made of liquid fire. 

SVS Agent Round 15: THE ART OF INSANITY, YA Contemporary OwnVoices

Genre: YA Contemporary Fiction - OwnVoices
Word Count: 77,000 

Is Your Main Character hot or cold?

Natalie has bipolar disorder, so she knows both hot and cold very well. She’s suffered through the dark wasteland of depression, which taught her that a cold brain is infinitely worse than a cold body.  She’s also known mania when her brain is hot – white hot – and she is completely unstoppable.  To know the temperature of someone with bipolar disorder, it depends when you ask. Today, on the verge of having her story told, she’s hot.

SVS Agent Round 16: PANGEA, YA Futuristic Thriller

Genre: YA Futuristic Thriller
Word Count: 81,000

Is Your Main Character hot or cold: 
Annelize would like to be cold. Well, cooler. Her parents would have fewer gray hairs if she were. She wants to model their glacial exteriors, never uttering a wrong word, but Annelize doesn’t have their natures or military training. It’s a miracle she hasn’t been detained at the border due to a poorly concealed scoff. Annelize knows she needs to let some things go, but she’s always found holding back more exhausting than diving in. A trait that causes significant problems at border crossings.

Monday, February 6, 2017

Cover Reveal for PROJECT PANDORA

I'm always happy to share a cover reveal, but even more so when the cover is from an author who came through one of our contests!

Title: Project Pandora (The Olympus Experiment, #1)
Author: Aden Polydoros
Release Date: August 1, 2017

Olympus is rising…

Tyler hasn’t been feeling like himself lately, his dreams are full of violence and death, and there are days where he can’t remember where he’s been.

Miles away, Shannon finds herself haunted by similar nightmares. She is afraid that she has done something terrible.

As the daughter of a state senator, Elizabeth has everything she could ever hope for. But when an uninvited guest interrupts a fundraising gala and stirs up painful memories, everything goes downhill fast.

Murder is what Hades is good at. So when two of his comrades go AWOL, he is rewarded with the most exhilarating hunt of his lifetime. For him, the game has just begun.

Author Bio: 

Aden Polydoros grew up in Long Grove, Illinois, the youngest of three children. Aden's family moved to Arizona when he was in second grade. As a kid, he spent much of his time exploring the desert near his home. When he wasn't searching for snakes and lizards, he was raiding the bookshelves of the local library. 

As a teenager, Aden decided that he wanted to be a writer. He spent his free time writing short stories. He was encourage by his English teacher to try his hand at writing a novel, which inspired him to begin Project Pandora. The YA thriller is set for publication with Entangled Publishing in Summer of 2017. He is represented by Mallory Brown of Triada US. 

Link to Exclusive Cover Reveal on YA Books Central: http://www.yabookscentral.com/blog/it-s-live-cover-reveal-1-31

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Giving Helpful Critique Partner Feeback from Michele Keller

Giving Helpful Feedback is a Craft in itself

Being a good critique partner is not reading someone’s story and saying “This is the best-est thing I have ever read.” (Even if it is.) It is also not saying “Wow, this sucks.” (Even if it does.) Most importantly, it is not telling another writer how to write their story. All three of these are useless as feedback.

Don’t give bad feedback; follow these guidelines.

Learning to be a good critique partner is like learning any new skill: it takes practice to develop. You will make mistakes and so will your critique partners. But learning to give better critiques will not only make you more valuable as a critique partner, it will also give you a set of tools to evaluate the feedback you receive.

Every time I critique a first chapter I always spend a good part of the e-mail reminding the author that opinions are subjective and something that doesn’t work for one person may work for another. This is the unavoidable problem with getting feedback on your work, and the more feedback a writer gets, the more likely that feedback is to be contradictory. That is why it is critical for an author to be able to evaluate the quality of the feedback they receive.

The first step

Always start by exchanging samples (Usually the first 10 pages or so.) This will give you an indication if you like the story well enough to give feedback on an entire novel. Also, make sure that you and your partner are avid readers in the genre/category you are critiquing. As you read through the pages, keep this list in the back of your head, or download a print copy: https://michelekeller.files.wordpress.com/2017/01/check-list-for-cp.pdf

Checklist for Critique Partners

World building:
Is the world consistent: Do all the rules make sense? Do they change for “plot” reasons?
Is the world believable, i.e. could a human society reach the conclusions that govern this world?

Character’s personal world:
Do the character’s circumstances match with their conflict?
Is the problem realistic?
Do you believe this character could find himself in this situation?

Character consistency:
Does the character react in a believable, consistent manner, i.e. do they always panic, or do they sometimes act defiant and sometimes aim to please?

Is the dialogue natural?
Does it move the story forward?
Is it filled with useless chit-chat?

Does the conflict make sense?
Is the character’s response proportional to the seriousness of the conflict?
Does the conflict begin on the first page?
Does the conflict chain continue unbroken through the sample?
Does it continue to intensify throughout the sample?

Are there unnecessary info dumps? (Overt or hidden?) Are there any useless interactions? Small actions? (daily living things not plot related: getting dressed, brushing teeth)
Is there a good balance between high-intensity and low-intensity elements?
Are the transitions clean? Do the transitions happen too soon, too late?

Je Ne Sais Quoi:
Were you hooked? If so where?
Were you turned off? If so where?

Is it clean or flowery?
Overuse of adjectives/adverbs?
Repetitive words? Clichés?
Do the word choices match the character/setting?
Is there too much setting in the prose? i.e. Is there too much slang? Or too grandiose?

Does the POV work?
Does the action feel too distant?
Are there too many filtering words? Does intentional distancing work?
Are there POV mistakes? Head hopping? Action/elements described that POV character could not have seen?

Try to answer all or most of these questions. Feel free to add your own as well.

What to do when the pages are great:

We all know this feeling. You click open the file and suddenly are transported to another place and time. Words wrap around you in a blissful embrace. The pages are amazing. What are you, a mere mortal, possibly going to say to improve them?

First: It’s OK to say the pages work
Second: It’s not OK to throw out random suggestions just to have something to say.

Now that you have said you like the pages, give detailed reasons using the list above about what you liked. Chances are, the writer will need to hear this because someone else might have told her to change it.

What to do when the pages are not great:

We’ve all been here as well. Every time this happens to me, I’m crushed. I know how much work goes into writing, and when I see pages that need to be scrapped, I’m devastated. Some pointers:

You can say this doesn’t work for me.


Now, you must go through the above list and tell the author, very specifically and without editorializing, why it doesn’t work. What do I mean by that? Don’t try to soften to blow by dancing around the issue and using soft language. You are not saving their ego; you are insulting them by treating them like a child. Keep feedback clear and specific.

Example: “Concrete” is a contemporary word and it jarred me out of your ancient Aztec setting.

is better than

Example: Have you thought about whether “concrete” is the best word choice here? I’m not sure if an ancient Aztec person would know about concrete or not.

Really? If you’re not sure about whether someone with stone age technology would use concrete construction, you should probably watch more PBS. The second example insults both you and your CP.

After you have gone through the list and made very specific criticisms, I would also encourage you to find something positive to say about the sample. Usually, I find that if a person struggled with the plotting aspects, her prose might be really strong, or vice versa.

I’ve never seen a sample that did not have one redeeming element. Was there a particularly well-drawn character? Or a place where the story pacing finally clicked and the wordiness evaporated? My favorite: look for places where an element that was a problem previously was handled well. This will let the author know she where her writing shines, which is the best encouragement.

Good Critique Partners Never:
• Blindly apply blanket advice without considering whether it works for this story. (Don’t tell your CP to cut her prolog just because you’ve heard they are out of fashion.) Same goes for telling her to write in 1st POV because all YA is. (Not true)
• Tell a CP something doesn’t work without offering a specific reason why. It is OK to say you aren’t sure why, but don’t just say something sucks without further comment.
• Tell a CP to change something for the sake of change. (If you suggest a change, make sure it actually is an improvement: i.e. raises stakes, fixes a plot hole, etc.)
• Tell a CP to add something just because it’s trendy. (Writing to trends is the fastest way to make your MS cliché.)
Being a good CP isn’t about giving each other a pat on the head. A good CP will challenge you, call you out on your mistakes, and ultimately make you a better writer. But being a great CP will also give you to tools to properly evaluate your own work. The more you critique pages the better you will become at spotting these problems and avoiding them all together in your own work meaning you will spend less time editing/revising with better results. And isn’t that what we all want?

Michele is a former music teacher, turned stay-at-home-mom, turned writer. Her blog Michelekeller.wordpress.com focuses on writing and querying advice for the beginning novelist. She also is a freelance blogger specializing in parenting, education, and family-friendly travel. 

You can find Michele at:
Twitter: @ml_keller