Everybody’s a Critic

It’s been a while since we talked agents and querying on this blog, hasn’t it?

I stopped querying about a year ago now. I just couldn’t do it anymore. After years and years of rejection–hundreds of queries on multiple projects–I had to stop for the sake of my mental health.

Despite having strong queries, I got few requests. Usually the feedback was “You’re a really good writer, but I don’t love this.”

I can’t fix “I’m not in love.” Give me something constructive–the prose is weak, the pacing is slow, the action scenes are choppy. Those are things I can fix. I can’t fix “Meh.”

About two years ago now, I was querying manuscript. This book had dual timelines. The only constructive feedback I got was to split the book in half and make it a duology.

I’d known when I began querying that eventually, someone would say that. The market changes, it goes in cycles. Sometimes, multiple perspectives are all the rage. Other times, agents won’t touch them.

I didn’t throw the advice away. I didn’t like it. I didn’t agree with it. But I sat on it a good long time and had a think.

I recently went back to that book. Suddenly, I had an idea of how a duology could, potentially, work.

I wrote 40 pages of new words in the “past” timeline. I plotted. I revisited my research. And do you know what I found out in those 40 pages?

I was right. Yes, I could, in theory, split the manuscript in half. I could write a first book and maybe even a second before reaching my “present” timeline, because there were 20 years in between.

But that wasn’t the story I wanted to tell. That wasn’t the book I wanted to write. While there is plenty of time in the “past”, there isn’t much story, and to stuff a book with extra plot would take the focus away from the main story I set out to write in the first place.

As writers, we know our books before and better than anyone else. I’m not saying that outside feedback, be it from paid professionals or your mom, isn’t valuable. It is. You should definitely seek it out.

But do you have to follow all of that advice?


But you should think on it. Give it a chance–a real chance.

The most ludacris writing advice I ever got was in the middle of Moreau House, which wasn’t moving. I was sick of the book and the plot. It was going nowhere, and though I felt the series needed some kind of wrap up, I was considering ditching the book altogether.

“Drop a body in it,” Ash said.

So I did. Literally, just because I was feeling like an asshole that day and I didn’t think it would work. A body came crashing through the ceiling, landing almost on top of my main character.

And it worked. It got the story moving again.

Only you know if a piece of advice is right for your book. But sometimes, you don’t know until you try.

Like what you see? Check out The Writing Process, Part I: Introduction.