“Criticism” by Julio Ruelas

I am in writer’s limbo. The book is finished. I am working with someone who is supposed to help me find a literary agent. (If she is successful, I will sing her praises from the rooftop!) And I am waiting for that someone to deliver a judgment on the way I have chosen to open the book. This not because I doubt myself, but because the fantasy author that she hired to review the draft (I paid for it) doesn’t think I need the prologue. The first time she read the draft, she told me to ditch the prologue, but the second time around (reviewing a draft where the prologue had been excised, much to my chagrin), she thought I needed to introduce the fantasy element more quickly.

Well, that was what the prologue was for, so I put it back in; I liked it better that way in the first place. An agent who actually read the first few chapters told me that my opening scene (sans prologue) was boring. I didn’t think it was boring, but it did delay the introduction of the fantasy element. The prologue also teases the reader with a puzzle, making it more likely that s/he will continue to read. (Interested? You can read my preferred first chapters at

So who is right? Me? The agent? The fantasy writer? I am waiting breathlessly for the person who is supposed to find an agent to weigh in—so far, I don’t think she has read the manuscript at all, but has relied upon the fantasy writer’s opinion.

I suppose this is the lot of every fiction writer. Everyone’s got an opinion, so who ya gonna trust?

In my day job as a high tech marketing content creator (aka “writer”), I hear multiple opinions on everything I write. This doesn’t bother me. I have set responses, depending on the nature of the criticism:

  • “There are typos.” OK. I’ll fix them.
  • “The grammar is incorrect.” My grammar is usually correct. I know more about grammar than most people have forgotten. But if it’s wrong, I’ll fix it.
  • “Take out this comma…or period…or whatever.” Why not? My name won’t be on it.
  • “Tone down the writing style.” Sure. You’re the customer, and if you want to bore people, that’s fine by me.
  • “I don’t know…it’s fine, but it doesn’t quite say what I want to say.” No worries. Get back to me when you do know.

(Okay, I don’t actually say these things. Tact works better than sarcasm in a client relationship. Usually.)

I can be phlegmatic about critiques of my marketing writing because I am providing a product. The product has to meet the customer’s needs and conform to h/her taste. If my writing doesn’t do this, I will change it until it does.

But the fiction writing I do (and my poetry, which I haven’t submitted to the public eye to the same degree) is another matter. I am open to informed criticism, but when my gut tells me it’s right, it’s right. If my gut tells me that yeah, I could do much better here, I will act on criticism.

In the final analysis, it’s my work. I didn’t write it for the person who will look for an agent for me. I didn’t write it for the fantasy writer who reviewed it (though I spent five years revising the MS because I did listen to her criticism where I felt it was merited). I didn’t write it for the agent or the publisher who may, given luck and the creek don’t rise, publish my novel. I didn’t write it for you, the reader. I wrote it because I wanted to write a book.

Anyway, suppose I did take the prologue out and rewrite the first couple of chapters. I will bet you good, hard cash that the agent will want changes. Then I bet more solid cash that the publisher will want changes, too.

And what will I do then? Stay tuned…

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s