It happened to me again. A newbie writer wrote me from out of the blue. After we exchanged a few emails, he said he was piling up rejections and did not know why. I offered him a possible resource for critique partners. After a couple of more emails, I offered to take a look at his first five pages. I asked him to tell me his genre and his target market.
I was blunt, saying that I would not pull my punches. I also told him that author Catherine Spangler had critiqued me when I was where he was and, while it was brutal, it was the best thing that ever happened to me. He asked me to please be brutal.
He ignored my request for his genre and target market--twice. I read his first five pages anyway. In my critique, I told him his writing was solid, but that there were still issues. I made eight points. Published writers, agents and editors will recognize the kind of things I said:
1) The manuscript started with a dream inside a prologue.
2) Too many strange, long weird words and names.
3) Sprinkling in unnecessary capitalizations.
4) Flat action. The action scenes included long sentences meant to describe fast action.
5) Attribution tags that included “cooed,” “quavered” and “twittered.”
And finally three logic issues I had with the story.
I just read his response. He either responded with his reasons for why he did everything, or he said things like “Hmmmm” to the flat action, or “Well, in English class I was taught to avoid 'said' as much as possible. Which is it?” to the attribution tags.
But the coup de grace was this: I had offered to answer any questions he had about my critique. He responded, “Sure, I'll come to you when I need help...you seem like a good mentor anyway.”
Anyway? Even though I gave you a crummy critique?
This is a public service message: There is only one correct response to a free critique: “Thank you so much for taking the time.”
Even if you do not agree with the critique given, it is inappropriate and rude to argue or defend your manuscript. Throw away the critique if you do not agree with it, but do not come back with counter-arguments. Telling me what the language is does not change the fact that you are using strange, weird words too frequently and will turn readers off.
This is EXACTLY why agents refuse to give more pointed comments in their rejection letters. The newbie invariably assumes they can explain away the comments.
You have just been told why your manuscript is being rejected. Either decide to take the advice or do not. However, have the courtesy to say “thank you” and stop there. It is okay to ask for clarification. It is not okay to say “Well, I was told . . . Which is it?”
End of rant.