Sunday, December 30, 2012

Being Internly: Avoiding the WTF Face

While going through my boss's slush pile, I learned something new about myself. I have a WTF face. It looks something like this:
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The head turn is usually me checking to see if any of my co-workers noticed how I just contorted my face.

So what merits the WTF face? Usually it's one of two things: grandiose language or a bizarre plot. By bizarre plot, I mean the kind of thing that might be read by brainwashed cult members or deranged people who idolize serial killers. Grandiose language is the kind where there are five adjectives in one sentence and everything is oddly formal, but there's something weird going on. Here's a made-up example, "The most high and respected chieftain, who ruled over the part of the plains where the snow falls in thick white clumps, raised his shiny staff of thick wood and declared to the sickly weak maiden to fear not, for his mighty essence would bring her back to life again."

I have the utmost respect for authors. They are my rock stars, but behind every rock star is an entourage and a writer should be no different. Go to a critique group. Visit Absolute Writer and get a beta reader. Attend workshops. Join a professional organization. Find a neutral party who has no emotional or financial stake in your well-being and ask them to read your manuscript. Get their unvarnished opinion. Then find another one. Do not let anyone rewrite anything for you. Just gather up all their notes and their reactions (Word's Track Changes is your best friend right now). You may find commonalities, a few places where everyone got tripped up. Fix those.  There may be copious notes all over the entire manuscript which usually means you chalk this up as a learning experience and start on a new one or you rewrite the whole thing.

Only query when you are sure that eight out of ten people will not make a WTF face when reading your manuscript. If you send my boss a query and I read it, I'm making the assumption that you are sending the very best possible version of your work. A WTF face means this is not market-ready at all and you are probably not a good investment.

Save all of us some time and avoid the WTF face.