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31 March, 2009

10 Good Reasons to Stop Listening to Mama and Them...

...when it comes to getting constructive feedback about your manuscript.

How many times have you heard an aspiring author say how good Mama and Them think their manuscript is? How Mama and Them have told everybody they know about the manuscript and now half the town is eagerly anticipating the book's upcoming release? Straight from Mama's and Them's hands to a would-be publisher or literary agent, the manuscript goes, and the aspiring author will kick off their shoes and fight you like you stole something if you dare suggest that it might not end up on somebody's bestseller list. Mama and them said the manuscript was a work of art, and so it is.

Then you get your hot little hands on the manuscript, thinking that you're about to be reading late into the night, and you discover that it's a complete, hot mess.


Now, don't get me wrong, there's nothing wrong with letting Mama and Them take a look at your masterpiece, but they might not necessarily be the most critical and objective sources for feedback. In fact, it's probably safe to bet the farm on the fact that they're not. Why? Because they love you. Chances are they're so proud of the fact that you "wrote a book" that it doesn't even matter what it's about or if it sucks.

Of course, you don't think it sucks, because you wrote it, and we both know you're not objectively critical of your own work. Who expects you to be? Certainly not me. But you can't seriously think that passing off your manuscript to Mama and Them for evaluation and editing tips suffices as a serious editorial review, can you?

I hope not, because following are 10 good reasons to stop listening to Mama and Them when it comes to getting constructive feedback about your manuscript. They have been verified for accuracy and cross-referenced for scientific validity, for your protection.

1. There is no such thing as the word "mines", unless, of course, you're referencing, for example, coal mines or salt mines. If Mama wants to know who took her brush, because, "it was mines," then you probably shouldn't hand her a pen and your manuscript and tell her to have it.

2. Anyone who breastfed you and wiped your stinky butt is not prepared to tell you not to quit your day job.

3. If you promise to buy Mama a Jaguar and Thems' kids some school clothes when you get your first big advance check, you will almost always hear what you want to hear.

4. Contrary to popular belief, Mama doesn't know everything. If she did, she'd know to tell you to have your work professionally edited. And she wouldn't have been busting up in your school wearing hair rollers and no bra back in the day.

5. Free is NOT always better. It's just cheaper.

6. If Mama and Them have never enjoyed reading for pleasure before now, your manuscript might be their first voluntary foray into the literary world. They might not even read it...might just tell you they did.

7. Is Pookie in jail still? If so, let him concentrate on getting out, would you?

8. Everybody has a story to tell, but not everyone is a writer. Which one are you? And don't ask Mama, because she doesn't know! See #4 if you need a gentle reminder of this fact.

9. If you stopped running around with that one dude so you could sit down and write a book, and Mama and Them hated him, then count on a stellar review straight out of the gate. Anything to get him gone...

10. Mama and them just don't want to hurt your feelings.

BONUS: Punctuation marks belong inside of quotation marks. If Mama and Them don't know that, then you're in trouble. And don't even think about pointing out to me that a punctuation mark is outside of quotation marks somewhere up above, either. This isn't about me, it's about you, so don't try to get off the subject.

If you're serious about your craft, then take it seriously from beginning to end. Nothing takes the place of professional editing, except maybe chocolate cake.

Okay, so, now that we've gotten that out of the way... Feel free to add your own "Stop Listening to Mama and Them" tips to the list via the 'comments' box. I'll go you one better - the funniest tip earns an autographed copy of Where There's Smoke!


Tee C. Royal said...

Love this post, Terra! And, it's soooo true too.


Terra Little said...

Oh, how I hated to have to bust out Mama and Them, Tee...sigh... But, thanks for stopping by and weighing in. I can't imagine the number of Mama and Them books you've encountered...LOL.