“A Method for the Madness” & Silent Auction Announcement, by Virginia Law Manning, EPA Critique Group Organizer


I’ve read it takes the average author 10 years to get their first book published. TEN years. But, one thing I’ve learned is that you can’t rush it. You have to do your homework. While there are no short cuts, you can have a plan, and I’m big on plans! Here is my roadmap to submissions:

  1. I get an idea for a story. I write it down. I’ve started using Scrivener to keep track of my picture book ideas. I don’t actually begin writing the story though until I’ve had a chance to let the idea brew and bake. When my idea comes to life with a beginning, middle and end that I think will work, I…
  2. Write my first draft. I revise it but I don’t go crazy. I’ve realized that my greatest weakness as a writer may be my propensity to spend hours tweaking wording in a manuscript when the manuscript has bigger issues. When the first draft feels ready to share, I…
  3. Submit my manuscript to my critique group. The first time around, my critique partners (CPs) are looking at big items. Is there a clear problem? Does the MC try to solve his/her problem? Is the ending satisfying? Then I…
  4. Read the critiques. There are four people in my group. Often in the early stages, my CPs will give me similar feedback because the flaws are more obvious. I revise my manuscript to address their feedback. Then I…
  5. Repeat steps 3 and 4 until either:
    1. I lose interest/become frustrated and need to take a break from the story, or…
    2. I’ve gotten to a version where the comments from my critique partners no longer agree with each other and the feedback seems to reflect my critique partners’ individual tastes rather than my vision for the story. At this point, I may still put the manuscript away so that I can look at it again with fresh eyes in a few months. Otherwise I…
  6. Send it to my alternate critique partners. I have several friends whom I swap critiques with from time to time when I need “a fresh set of eyes” on my work. I may also call in some favors. For instance, earlier this year I asked the educational director of the preschool where I work if she would critique a manuscript for me. Then I…
  7. Look for paid manuscript critique opportunities. Having my work critiqued by editors and agents has taught me so much!!! I know they are expensive, but I cannot stress enough how important they are! Sometimes if I’m stuck on a manuscript, I might get a manuscript critique with an author. While they can’t offer us representation or sign a contract, authors can help us brainstorm our manuscript problems.
  8. After I’ve addressed the editor’s/agent’s feedback, I resubmit my manuscript to my critique group with the editor’s feedback. My CPs can help me identify if I’ve made the necessary changes.
  9. If my CPs give me the green light, I start submitting, but I still keep my eyes open for other paid manuscript opportunities. One reason I do this is because, after working on the story that long, I start getting impatient and with a paid manuscript critique I know when I’ll get a response. This is an expensive indulgence I allow myself.
  10. At every step, I’m always thinking of new story ideas and storing them in my Scrivener file.

I hope you’ll think about what your current plan is and whether it’s working for you. If you don’t have a critique group, please check the EPA website under “Local Critique Groups” to find a group to join.

I really want you to succeed! If you’re going to the EPA Pocono Retreat, I have donated a “Picture Book Author’s Care Package” for the Silent Auction. The care package includes three of my favorite writing how-to books, a book lover’s journal, and the opportunity to have three picture book manuscripts critiqued by me. Proceeds from the Silent Auction go to the Pocono Retreat Scholarship Fund. It’s a win-win-win situation!

I hope to see you at The Barn!


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6 Responses to “A Method for the Madness” & Silent Auction Announcement, by Virginia Law Manning, EPA Critique Group Organizer

  1. hmmmmm says:

    Thanks Virginia! I’ve been teetering on the Scrivener brink — would love to know more…
    Also: you totally lured me in with that photo — where is it?!

  2. alisongreenmyers says:

    What a great post! Your “I revise but I don’t go crazy” sentiment, is one I’m always trying to keep in mind!! Thank you!
    And Happy Birthday to you!!

  3. Thank you, Alison! I can’t wait to see you! My other weakness is not making the problem clear enough. My critique partners are my lifesavers!

  4. jeannecurtin says:

    Hi, Virginia. I enjoyed your post. I think slowing down and taking time has been one of my biggest challenges. But rejections have helped with that. Lol. I now belong to two critique groups, 12×12, and Rate Your Story. And tough manuscripts get shipped off for a paid critique.
    Enjoy the retreat! Wish I were going!!!

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