During the year I've taken on 29 clients, turned down some others, and delivered over 170,000 words in reports. Almost two novels' worth! (Crikey, think how pleased my agent would have been, if only...) I've had one client who didn't get back to me after receiving her report, but every one of the others has been effusive in acceptance of my often tough words. In fact, the first thing that surprised me was the courage and positivity with which they have all received their reports. A full P2P manuscript report is usually around 7,000 words, and most of those words focus on what's wrong. I skip with unseemly haste through the positive stuff and linger ouchingly on the negative so that the client understands fully what he or she needs to do. It's very, very tough to receive such feedback and I would like to say how much I admire them for being able to take it and, more importantly, act on it so keenly. I prepare all clients very carefully beforehand and don't take anyone who I think is going to be resistant or ignorant about the hard work involved in good writing. For my clients' dedication and courage, I salute them.
Comments have included:
"Thanks so much for your insightful, thorough and hugely helpful report. I thought I'd better check in so that you know I haven't killed myself!"
"Thanks so much again for what seems like an entire course in creative writing's worth in one report!"
"To be honest, Nicola, I cried. I cried with relief that now, at last, I know what's wrong. And you've shown me how to deal with it."
"I have re-read many websites, blogs, covering the points your critique made. I had read most of them before, but seeing your pointed comments placed alongside my own work had a marked effect. It was as if I was reading the previously studied advice for the first time."
"I am deeply impressed by the detail of your report and annotations."
"You don't hold back!"No, I don't. There wouldn't be any point, would there? You don't pay for someone to pat you on the back, say how marvellous you are and then to shy away from saying why you aren't published and won't be if you don't find and rectify the faults. On the other hand, I don't have to try very hard to find the faults and let me tell you the second thing that surprised me about this work:
Pretty much everyone is making the same few mistakes.So, one might think, why don't I just list those mistakes, here and now, for everyone to see? Then, surely, writers can save themselves a whole load of money by not having to go to consultancies like P2P?
Actually, I've written about them all already on this blog. But I'll say it again: you make mistakes with voice, structure, narrative thrust, over-writing, believability and pace. I've done posts on them all. But being told these things in the abstract is not enough. What I do within a P2P consultation is highlighted by one of the comments above:
"...seeing your pointed comments placed alongside my own work, had a marked effect. It was as if I was reading the previously studied advice for the first time."Because if I tell you what to do in a blog post, doling out the theory, it simply is not as pointful and useful as if I show you, by taking your work and showing how it falls short of what you can and must do. What I do with a P2P report is annotate the MS, so that the writer's own writing reveals clear examples of the points I make in the report itself.
See, showing is better than telling.
But the main news is that on the events section of the WTBP site you will see that the very first Write to be Published event actually aims to answer the very question that a P2P manuscript appraisal does:
Do you want to know what's wrong with yours? Well, if you can get to Edinburgh on March 22nd and spend the evening with me at this event in a luxury hotel, refreshments (including wine) and chocolate included, as well as a goody bag and free book, I aim to try to show you. You are being told before anyone else, so sign up now before the rush!
There's also another event you'll see, on April 4th: Get Ready to be Published. Everything except the writing. With those two events, you're pretty much set.
But I do realise that many of you can't get to Edinburgh or afford the fees for a private consultancy, so the blog goes on, unabated. Just try to stop me...