A Gent's Outlook

A Literary Agent Divulges the TRUTH about Publishing

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Let Your Binky Go (or How to Pass Up a Blowjob and Get Happily Published)

There comes a time when a child must leave his pacifier and blanky behind. The same is true of writers and their critique groups.

Critique groups are a poor man’s professional editor. I understand that finding and paying for a real professional editor can be time-consuming and a possibly painful experience, but there is no shortcutting the necessity for competent editorial review. If you, as a writer, want to be published, you are going to have to make some sort of sacrifice in the name of growing beyond the ordinary and comfortable.

In the real world, as it normally happens, agents and publishing house editors are constantly bombarded with comments like, “I’ll run this by my critique group and get back to you.” New writers are even being so bold as to take their critique group members’ advice over that of their agent’s. This I one of the best ways I know of to lose representation.

Who the fuck do you have in your critique group? Stephen King? Nora Roberts? Patricia Cornwell? Most critique groups are comprised of two kinds of people—the power-hungry and the emotionally needy. Talk about a match made in hell… I have never understood the mentality of a published, successful writer who goes back to become the diva of a critique group. Where does she get the time? Why are you training your competition? The answer: Feeling like the adored and powerful leader of group of people who would be lost without you has its own rewards.

Critique groups are fine for the beginner. However, when your writing reaches the point where you are seeking a literary agent, you should be beyond the need for critique groups and their moral support. At this point in your writing career, critique groups should only be used as confidence builders to get you to the query stage, not as writing mentors. I have had an agent friend (yes, I have friends, and some I don’t even sleep with) who have dumped clients because the writer argued some bullshit about how his critique group loved his book. The agent, he thought, was being too harsh on his novel. Then, after threats and a lot of screeching, the writer finally revised and the book sold. Unfortunately, the dumbfuck took the contract to his critique group, and they advised he hold out for some piddly-diddly fucking thing. My friend was half-insane and furious, and told him to fuck off after the editor ran screaming the other direction—those fragile souls can only take so much..

Why do wannabe writers go to other wannabe writers for advice on getting published or editing their books? Go to a professional—not a scammer, but an industry professional who can offer truly helpful feedback. That means you have to research and research and maybe save up by forgoing a blowjob or two at the local International Festival, but, I guarantee that it is worth it. Besides, trust me, the blowjobs from Slovenia aren’t worth the $15.


  • At 2:51 PM, Blogger Omar said…

    Wow! Nobody comes here anymore.

  • At 3:20 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Hush up, Omar. I come here because I don't have to read a bunch of ignorant comments from writers too stupid to understand what is going on. If I wanted to read a running squabble between wannabe buttheads, I'd go to the writer boards. At least here I don't have to say anything...Sammy does all the talking by himself.

  • At 5:18 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I quit my critique group after 2 weeks, and the reason is just how you described it. There was some diva running the show, and everyone just fawned over her. I just wanted some damn feedback. I wasn't in it that long before I discovered that anyone who wrote better than her was shot down immediately. Really creepy, if you ask me. I felt like I was back in high school getting pissed on by the popular kids.


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