Justine Just Says “No”

“No” to requests for her to read other people’s unpublished work, that is. Lots of reasons, many of which boil down to “uh, can’t you see I’m busy?” Which is a totally valid reason. Reminds me to link again to my own entry on the subject, since I’m getting an increasing incidence of such requests again. The answer is still “no,” I’m afraid. Sorry.

15 thoughts on “Justine Just Says “No”

  1. Well, “you suck, Justine” and “I completely understand and support your position” both spring to mind personally, simply as a writer trying to break into the business myself and having a damn hard time about it.

    Good for you both, really. You’re just so busy. How nice for you.

    Now to get back to my story.

  2. While I occasionally teach writing my expenses, at least, are being covered. I am doing such a bad job managing my own projects without throwing other people’s efforts into the mix that my answer is more like:

    “HELL NO! (Goodluckwithyourcareer,kthxbai.)”

    We don’t get anymore time. We spend it and it’s gone.

  3. I sometimes open up my email and find two messages at the same time. One from a fan wishing I was writing two books a year, and the other from someone who wants me to cast an eye over their novel/proposal/query letter before they send it off.

    I can’t please both of them, and one of them is putting money in my pocket.

  4. Well Simon, you could charge a fee for your services. I imagine it would just open you to a world of brain hurt, so why risk it.

  5. I could never imagine asking a radom writer to read my work. I wouldn’t even ask the writers I know.

    There is a critiquing service you can pay to use and they use authors for the critiques. Lawrence Watt-Evans does some work them.

  6. Curses! Here I had thought all you successful writers were actually my personal proofreaders. My worldview has been shattered…

  7. Hey, listen, Scalzi, thanks for bringing up Justine Larbalestier once again. Her blog has finally hooked me, I think, and I don’t know what took me so long.

  8. Did you ever get the critique to the guy you mentioned in the other post? I know how that feels, and I’ve pretty much decided that I can’t read novel manuscripts for someone unless I have a) slept with them or b) suffered with them (like at Clarion–LOL). Since the set of all a is extremely small, there are just a couple of people that can ever get a novel crit out of me.

    Hey, how about a post telling new writers where they can get good criticism, both peer and professional? Don’t you teach at Viable Paradise? There’s two Clarions. An Odyssey. Critters workshop. One of the few perks you can take away from one of those is having enough of a relationship with an instructor in order to ask that kind of favor.

  9. John, in spite of your less-than-stellar attitude towards my yet-to-be-written unpublished work, I’m always available to read your unpublished work.

  10. “Well Simon, you could charge a fee for your services. I imagine it would just open you to a world of brain hurt, so why risk it.”

    I only know how to make my own work less sucky, and my process involves 20-25 drafts of each novel. The thought of skimming something and picking out the worst flaws without correcting grammar, fixing typos, writing new plot ideas, deleting or combining characters, rearranging scenes, snipping dialogue … adding paragraphs of notes … must … stop … now …

  11. Is there something like the old postal workshop (folio/orbiter) available? I learned a hell of a lot from one (over a period of about ten years). I think the BSFA still runs one. Best to direct those after critiques to something like that.

  12. It has always amazed me how many people think that professional writers, agents and editors owe them the time and aggravation to read their work. Editing and reviewing drafts is very hard work, and there’s no reason to do it for free for someone that you’ve never met.

    That being said, of course, the only way any writer, and especiallly a beginning one, will ever improve is through instruction and feedback. While I would imagine the workshops mentioned in posts above are good choices for this, there’s no need to go that far afield. After all, not everyone is accepted into these workshops, and not everyone can afford the time a travel to attend.

    Find a nearby community (or regular) college and sign up for a writing class. Better yet, sign up for several. Find other fledgling writers and look at each other’s work. Yes, a community college teacher probably doesn’t know as much as Big Shot Writer/Editor/Agent, but, frankly, he (or she!) knows enough to teach you something if you’re just getting started (and probably even if you’re not). By the same token, other beginning writers may also have their bad habits, but they’re probably *different* bad habits from yours, and you can help each other mutually overcome them. I can tell you from experience that it’s much easier to spot problems in the work of others that in your own. Help is out there, and out there without unfairly burdening people who have jobs beyond reading a mountain of unsolicited manuscripts.

  13. Being a great klutz of a writer myself, I hate the idea of critiquing someone else’s work. Anytime I think I know what I’m doing, I see some horrible mess I’ve made (or have it pointed out by my editor, agent, readers, etc…) and cringe. And I don’t want to distribute empty “feel goods” to other writers–the gods know that didn’t help me any. I think I’m just too blunt (and possibly thick) for that.

    Recently I was asked by a non-writer friend to talk to a young student he knew who wanted to be a professional writer. (Friends of friends! Argh!) I did exchange one email with the student and said I might consider looking at her work if she was prepared for the fact that I wouldn’t say anything nice just to make her feel good about her work, but I would be honest about what I thought of it.

    She didn’t write back.

    I’m mean.

  14. I’m not famous enough to be approached by random people to give feedback on work (several regionally produced plays under my belt, but that’s it), but I am behind on scripts already–I owe the guy who directed my most recent play a full read of his newest play (sorry, Joe! I’ll get there soon! I promise!), and I owe my friend–who happens to be an Emmy-winner–a read of *his* screenplay. I’ve always been sympathetic to professional writers who don’t have time, but now I *viscerally* understand it.

    Time ot get to work.

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