Monday, August 31, 2009

The Envy Test

My critique group met Friday night to talk, review and, of course, eat. (Don't all good critique groups feature food?) The best part of the evening was realizing that my first three chapters are done, never to be rewritten again...at least not until I get notes from my agent, and then my editor...well, you get the picture. How do I know they're done? Holly Black says so.

Holly Black was one of my favorite speakers at SCBWI-LA. She's bubbly and enthusiastic, she has great advice and she writes books that I love to read. We all know that finding critique partners can be difficult. But as Holly pointed out during her breakout workshop on critiquing, you don't just want people that you trust. You also have to not be so annoyed by them that you ignore everything they say, or so intimidated by them that you can't offer honest critiques of their work. You don't all have to write in the same genre, but these people need to get you.

She also offered up my favorite tip for knowing that something is ready to send out. She called it "The Envy Test."

If somebody's work makes me sort of envious, and maybe a little bit angry, then I know that it's ready to go out. Like if I'm thinking Oh my god, you totally nailed it! I'm really angry right now. I wish I wrote that! then it's ready. You want to have a little jealousy, because if you don't, it's not gonna spur you, it's not gonna push you. You're not going to want to rise up to that level.


Since I was the only one who attended this session, I had planned to bring my notes to share with everyone. But as I scrambled on Friday night to get out the door, finish making dinner for my family and bring along my comments on everyone else's writing, I forgot to grab my Holly notes. They'd have to hear about the Envy Test another time. So when Gwen commented about some scenes that she thought were perfect, I held my breath. And when Lori said that she was totally jealous of my chapter endings, I got giddy. If Holly Black's Envy Test is to be trusted, then my chapters are finally ready! Finally!

Of course, that's just the first three chapters. My task for this week is to make sure the remaining chapters make critiquers equally envious so that I can send this baby on its way.

Has somebody else's writing ever made you jealous? Tell them! It just might make their day :)

22 comments:

PJ Hoover said...

I love when I read great stuff from my crit partners! It is so nice to see it pre-publication.
Congrats on your great feedback. That is so way cool!

Lisa and Laura said...

That is AWESOME advice. We recently read an MS and were eaten up with jealousy. The author is about to go on sub so she'll probably go to auction and then we'll really hate her! Ha!

I love this. Great post, Sherrie!

DebraLSchubert said...

Great post, Sherrie. I'll remember the jealousy test when I sent out my new wip. Hopefully, my crit partners will say they hate me.;-)

Casey McCormick said...

It's certainly a great gauge. There's a telling difference between feedback that can be interpreted as being nice (honestly or not) and feedback that goes beyond that into true excitement and, yes, even jealousy.

I have a few of these gems and they're what I turn to when I'm feeling down about my writing.

Congrats on the great feedback you got on your first three chapters!

Lazy Writer said...

Oh, I love the jealousy test. It is so true! I'll be sure to tell someone when I am jealous of their work.

ElanaJ said...

Oooh, I like this envy test. Very very true! I'm going to be sure to tell my crit group about this this week. Thanks!

Solvang Sherrie said...

PJ: It IS fun to see the story progress, isn't it?

LiLa: I have a feeling YOU two will be the ones on auction, then we'll all be green!

Debra: Here's hoping your crit partners hate you =)

Casey: 'Nice' feedback isn't usually helpful. If something's wrong, I want to know where so I can fix it. And when people love it, that's great to know, too!

Susan: Excellent--share the jealousy! :)

Elana: You are SO welcome!

The Things We Carried said...

Wow, that is a fabulous vein of thought!

lotusgirl said...

I guess that's a really good way to figure out if they nailed it.

Corey Schwartz said...

Oh, what a terrific post! I totally feel envious when I read a great PB manuscript!

lakeviewer said...

Interesting. I shall keep this in mind.

C.R. Evers said...

Wow! sounds like a great "talk" from Holly and fabulous feedback from your group!!! YaY!

It must be great to find a group you can click w/.

Vivian said...

Because "Holly Black says so." Man, I got chills from this.

Love this advice and even more, I'm thrilled your chapters passed The Envy Test. Congrats!

Tess said...

Hooray! That is the best feeling ev-ah :D

Shelli said...

im jealous just hearing this :)

Kelly said...

That is a cool way to look at it. I so have read some of my group's work and said, "I wish I could write like that." or "I wish I would have thought of that."
Congrats for passing the envy test!!

storyqueen said...

This taps into the reality of writing groups. We are all human and we do sometimes feel envious of others. What a great idea to put it to positive use!

Shelley

Lady Glamis said...

I get jealous of people's writing all the time! I agree that the Envy test is a great way to go. The only problem is that I never know if people are jealous or not because they never tell me. I'm always getting critiques that tell me how to improve. But that's what I want! I'll get there one day. :D

Kelly H-Y said...

What a great post ... and so true!! Congrats to you ... what a great feeling!

Merc said...

Congrats on getting the chapters perfected. :D

And great advice. It definitely gives an edge to "I loved it" comments... ;)

Thanks for the great post.

~Merc

Stina Lindenblatt said...

Thanks for this post. I didn't attend Holly's session because I went to another one. I loved her keynote speech with the white board, though. It was like being back at school.

So I just have to make my crit group jealous? Hmmm. I'd better get to work then. :D

L.H. Walker said...

I'm so glad I added you to my Google Reader! Yes, I am totally jealous of your chapter endings and I can't wait to read more!

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