I’m sharing this recently published article here, which was written by the acquisitions editor of Firefly Southern Fiction, who signed my forthcoming novel, Mourning Dove. It is a funny story about how I came to get my third novel signed, and my first thought, as I read this piece, was I don’t know whether to be flattered or embarrassed! But it’s a good lesson for writers to learn from the voice of a renowned editor ! The moral is: writers, stay with your voice. As for the featured picture with this post, I grabbed one of me at the event for my novel, A Portal in Time, for absolutely no other reason than to give y’all a picture! I hope you enjoy this piece.
November 28, 2017
First Rules of Critique—“Rule Two”
by Eva Marie Everson @EvaMarieEverson
Last month I talked with you about the first rule of critique, which is to know the level of the writer whose work you are critiquing.
So, let’s move forward with Rule #2: There are rules … and there is style.
About a year ago, an email came into my Firefly Southern Fiction managing editor mailbox (oh, yes . . . another hat I wear . . . ). In the text of the email was a book proposal. In the text of the email. Well, I knew immediately that this writer didn’t have an agent. As I only work with agented authors, I quickly wrote back (without reading the proposal, mind you), and asked if the author had an agent (knowing full well she would say “no.”).
She wrote back a short while later with, “I do not have an agent.”
Yeah . . . I kinda knew that (insert smile here). So, I thought I’d quickly shoot back that I only work with agented authors. But before I could hit the “compose” button on my email page, a thought came to me. Eva Marie, said the Thought, you are the president of Word Weavers International. You are supposed to offer a word of encouragement . . .
Oh. Yeah. So, I decided I’d peruse the first few lines of the “in the text of the email” work, offer a few “kudos here and there” and then suggest that when the author find an agent, she contact me again. Well, reading those first few lines led to reading the next few lines. And then a few more . . . until I was convinced I’d found the next great Southern writer. I was Max Perkins and this was my Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and Thomas Wolfe all rolled into one fabulous female from Memphis now living in Malibu!
I got on the phone, called the author, and asked (stupidly), “You don’t have an agent?” She repeated that she did not. “Hold on,” I said. “I’ll call you back.” Then I jumped back on the phone and called a Southern Belle agent I know who I thought would be perfect for this Southern Belle writer. After I read the first several paragraphs out loud, the agent said, “What on earth is that glorious writing?”
Long story a tad longer . . . the writer had a new agent . . . the agent had a new client . . . and I had a new author.
But here’s the deal. The author, Claire Fullerton, broke one “rule” after the other for the sake of style in her work and, in the process, handed me a most delicious body of work. Months later, when I sent Mourning Dove (releases June 2018) to the proofer, and after she’d done her job on it, she wrote me and said, “She broke every CBA rule . . . and did it beautifully.”
Here’s the problem as I see it: sometimes rules are made to be adhered to; sometimes rules are made to be broken. For example, I hear writerly people going on and on all the time about the cursed “semicolon.” To which I say, “If God hadn’t meant for us to use semicolons, He would not have invented them.” (Insert grin here.)
But, oh . . . someone will say . . . but they stop me in my tracks. Well then, buy new shoes. (More smiles inserted; I’m feeling cheeky today.)
Here’s another one: don’t use ellipses. Honey, Southern people speak and think in ellipses. Therefore, Southern writers have to use them. I’m not sure if that’s a rule, but I think it’s a law.
When we critique work, we must listen for voice. Voice is found within word choices and punctuation. Voice is found in style. Voice is what sets the writer apart from all other writers out there.
If, as a critiquer, you are unsure if the writer broke a rule on purpose, then simply ask, “Is this going to style?” I’m not suggesting that the writer will always know, especially if they are new to the craft. But many times they will.
Repeat Rule #1: Know the absolute rules (periods go at the end of sentences) and differentiate between rule and style. In doing so, you’ll help the writer find her voice.
First Rules of #Writing Critique—Rule Two – from @EvaMarieEverson on @EdieMelson (Click to Tweet)
Always, always know the #writing rules, then break the ones needed to make the work sing – @EvaMarieEverson (Click to Tweet)