Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Marlena Fortune Answers Your Questions

Welcome back to Marlena Fortune, Seekerville's favorite former literary agent. This visit Marlena has volunteered to answer all your pressing writing, publishing and contest questions.

Additionally, those who submitted your questions via email are entered into a drawing for a unique Marlena Fortune literary care package. The ever gracious Marlena has also deemed to add your name to the drawing if you ask a particularly spicy question online today.

TR: Welcome back to Seekerville, Ms. Fortune. This is your third visit, so you must like us.

MF: I'll do a lot of things for a good cheese danish.

TR: Okay, then. Let's start with our first question. One of our Seekerville guest asks:

Which 5 contests would be the best to enter and win as an unpublished writer? Are there major contests just like there are major golf tournaments? You can name more than 5 contests if you'd like.

Is 'Fortune' a pen name or were you lucky enough to acquire it naturally?

MF: Golf? Golf balls. Golf is to writing as .... Is it too early for a martini? Wait, of course, as writing is to manuscripts.

While it pleases me to talk in circles, I must be honest and tell you that the 'best contests' for a writer is a question whose answer is solely dependent upon where the writer is in their writing career. As I have said before, (you weren't listening) doors do not open based on contest writing credentials. Contests provide an avenue to an editor or agent. Your writing stands on its merits.

Let me reiterate my August 5th, 2008 chat in Seekerville, because it is good to quote me.

"I can't say I perk up and shout, 'Hallelujah' when I see a cover letter that tells me you won a contest. After all, there are many contests out there and who am I to judge the merits of each? Isn't the the real value of contests to offer unpublished writers the opportunity to improve their craft and to allow access to judges who may then invite writers to submit based on the quality of their work?"

As for your question on major contests; by the top contests, and I assume you mean that beginners should not try this at home, correct? I lunched with a group of writers recently and presented your question to them. Their responses, not mine, are listed below.

RWA Sponsored
The Golden Heart stands alone at the top. Below, in no particular order are:

The Maggie
The Jasmine (which is currently on hiatus)
The Marlene
The Golden Pen
The Orange Rose
Pasic Book of Your Heart

Non RWA Sponsored

The Genesis
Colorado Gold
PNWA Literary Contest

You may now debate the merits of their responses.

TR: Ms. Fortune, you forgot to answer the question about your name.
MF: I never forget.

TR: (Moving right along.) Another fan writes: When reading the first few pages of a manuscript, what several things will make you put it down, and what several things will make you keep reading?

MF: Since the topic of what makes me pull out my hair has been covered at our last chat, I will attempt to tell you what makes me keep reading.

How can I describe joy, hope, or Friday when the clock strikes five pm?

There is so much promise when your eyes scan the pages of a new manuscript, when you find yourself lost in that story, excuse me a moment--I always get choked up. Well, it's simply magical.

Those of you who judge contests understand that lovely phenomenon when you are reading an entry and you come to the last page and want more..NOW!!

It isn't any different for me than it is for you, however a good literary agent must balance the fall-in-love factor with many other things that all add up to marketability.

TR: A complex question for you, Ms. Fortune. A reader would like to know how a writer stays organized. For example how do most writers you remember whether the dress was red in chapter one, and if she takes sugar in her tea. Do writers use charts, or is it just magic? Our Seekerville guest says she is getting bogged down in charts that are not effective, and wonders if you know any tricks.

MF: Yes, well I do know tricks. But since we are speaking of writing...
Once again I have had to poll my considerable resources (read--buy a round of drinks-- here) to answer your questions. I am such a martyr for you people.

One of the Seekers suggested the Portable Plotting Board which was featured in a recent post.

Another writer advises a three-ring binder for all your charts pertaining to a manuscript, along with pockets to hold research.

The Plot Doctor, Carolyn Greene's The Prescription for Plotting system was mentioned by several writers.

I would simply hire an assistant to take care of details such as this.

Any thoughts from the audience?

TR: Ms Fortune, we have our last question. What do you think about entering contests with more than one manuscript?

MF: What do you mean, what do I think?

TR: Ah, Ms. Fortune, I think the writer wants your input on this as a strategy to sell.

MF: I should think this was obvious. Manuscripts are like shoes. You have the red and black sandals with the three inch heels, the sleek Italian mules with four inch heels and pointy toes, or the open toe black shoes with one inch platforms and six inch stiletto high heels.

Contests are subjective, so why not not strut all your manuscripts out into the world and see what they bring back?

TR: Thank you, Marlena. Ms. Fortune will now take your questions, Seekerville.

Marlena Fortune is a former literary agent and the former CEO of Fortune Literary Agency. Ms. Fortune is also the best-selling author of Lies Writers Tell.

Tonight at 10 pm MST Seekers will draw the name of the winner of Ms. Fortune's literary care package (value undetermined).


  1. Well, I WANT the literary package, but I'm ineligible (sometimes being a Seeker is a distinct disadvantage, Ms. F!!!) but here is my take:

    I think you should take over Ms. Snark's job in the marketplace because you're that good. And a born snark.

    But I digress. So, Ms. Fortune... May I call you Marlena?


    All righty, then.

    Ms. Fortune:

    How did you get in my closet and why on earth does the world at large need to know about my shoe collection? And you left out the stiletto-heel boots in black and camel suede, by the way.

    Back to writing: I love your take on contests. You know we Seekers founded our group because of contests and have seen success because of our alliance, prayer and continued addiction to contest results. And now we want to help others through our blog (aren't we just THAT magnanimous????)about contests.

    Wendy Lawton was here yesterday, and she noted that agents and editors 'watch' authors before they think about working with them. That makes perfect sense. Do you do that, Ms. Fortune? Watch authors?

    And if so, what do you look for in an author? Style? Voice? Great hair? Love of puppies? To-die-for shoes? Or a platinum card at the hotel bar?

    Thanks so much for being here, Ms. F. And while it's early for martinis in Seekerville (I know, I know... It's five o'clock somewhere!!!) I brought a great Caribou Coffee set up for everyone to celebrate the springtime caribou migration.

    And Tim Horton's, a Canadian donut/coffee/pastry shop, has offered to supply breakfast today. They'll make hot sandwiches, fresh donuts and bagels, and mini-tarts...

    And Timbits!!! Little donut holes that make great eating in the car. Not that I know anything about that.

    Anybody got a napkin? That powdered sugar sure does a number on black silk.


  2. Ruth, darling. I don't have clients anymore. But I AM watching you and I am serious when I say, step away from the coffee carafe. You are one shot short of a rush.

  3. I see you two are up.

    I promised Marlena cheese danish, so there is a very nice tray of assorted danish right over there next to Ruth's Tim Horton's spread.

    We will not starve today.

    Thank you for being with us today Ms. M.

  4. Good morning, Ms. Fortune. Good to see you in Seekerville! As always I'm in awe of your pithy responses and spirited attitude. Like you, Seekers are big believers in strutting our stuff. You're looking fine. Tell us how you managed to lunch with editors yet kept off the pounds.


  5. Ms. Fortune,

    I found your interview highly entertaining. Would you object to my creating a character in my WIP based on you? Or would that be taking too much creative license? I would hope you would be flattered. In fact, if you knew my writing, I'm sure you would be thrilled. :)

    Although you are out of the business, could you refer me to one of your literary agent colleagues who would read my mss? There are martinis in it for you if that helps.

    I'm not sure what you mean by spicy questions. I can't think of any questions about love scenes, if that is what it takes to qualify me for your gift.

    I do have a burning question about contests. I have entered 8 and learned a great deal. One problem I have is after entering one, I will keep working on the mss. Often by the time I get the judge's comments I will have changed the beginning so much that the comments don't help that much. Or I might have figured things out for myself and made the changes.

    My question: do people who enter contests let that mss lay until they get the comments back? Do they just work on a different mss while they wait? I do think if one recommends others to submit to contests, sharing strategies is most helpful or there will be disappointment.

    Also, would you be able to give advice on the best use of Online writer's group resources? I'm in RWA and ACFW but get overwhelmed by e-mails on the loops which can sometimes be a time-waster. I currently am not on loops with either or using the Online resources. Which resources do you recommend from these groups?

    Thanks for getting my creative juices flowing so early in the morning. I hope you aren't too juiced by now to consider my questions :)


  6. Can a contest entry be totally overdone? Too "pimped" ? (Pardon my French) Wondering if I have reached over-the-top status with my WIP.

    Pastry and coffee sure sounds like the breakfast of champions!

  7. Good morning, Ms. Fortune ... it is our good fortune that you are with us again. It's so nice having someone visit who is as snarky as Ruthy ... keeps her on her toes and the rest of us in stitches -- thank you!

    As far as a "spicy question," how many love scenes would you say is too many for an Inspy novel?

    Oh, and what a tragedy that "manuscripts are like shoes" because I don't have many of either in my closets.

  8. Cathy, what an interesting comment/question.

    I think you answered it yourself so I'm going to beat Ms. F. to the keyboard here and say that of course you should change things if a better way occurs to you.


    What I prefer to do is have several different projects working, researching one while writing another as a third one 'simmers'...

    That might be the one you've entered in contests that's simmering.

    I find I have a fresh perspective when I go back to the simmering pot, after the salt, beef base and mushrooms (you get it, right??? Soup analogy...) have time to blend flavors.

    Not everyone is comfortable doing that, and that's okay, but I find my mind never turns off and if I channel it in multiple directions, I get better and quicker results.

    So: it's okay to enter it and then change it. I've had people e-mail me thank you notes telling me I hit the nail on the head in their ms. and that they'd already changed a bunch of things that we agree would work better. Sometimes we enter too quick, sometimes the creative juices (which I see as a blessing of the Holy Spirit)hit overdrive, and we change things up.

    And what's up with no spice??? Honey, sex isn't the only spice in life, is it? Gadzooks, girlfriend, what about nutmeg? Or garlic, an age-old friend in Seekerville. We even have garlic shipped out to the island. What is life without garlic, I ask???

    Ask Marlena a question about Montreal Steak seasoning or taco blends!!! Really throw her off!



  9. Of all the "magnanimous" advice I read today, one that stands out the most is "shoes."

    Alas, the secret to my writing stagnancy could be the flip flops I wear instead of (fill in lovely description of a generally high heeled shoe here). Dratalicous.

    Julie, we can languish in empty manuscript/shoe closet haven together. Good news is I kinda rolled the danish and coffee cart into the closet with us. Yumalicious.

  10. Ann, I'm going to tell you my recent real-life experience that I think works for you.

    I have a series that hasn't sold yet. I think they're wonderful books so while I've been working on new things to offer the editors at Superromance, I've re-examined these books.

    Then I pimped them, making them a little more flash and sass.

    I entered them in Finally a Bride late last year. Both finaled. The one thing each judge nailed was the 'overdone' feeling. Where did they feel it?

    In the pimping, LOL!

    So I re-did the manuscripts before the editors (double editors in FAB, Melissa Endlich of Steeple Hill and Rebecca Germany of Barbour)saw them, then got requests for both and hit February revising them to meet the shortened word count.

    So I over-pimped them. It didn't make them bad, but I'm forever grateful to those FAB judges for taking the time to advise me precisely where I was astray. As I send these out to editors, the story line is cleaner and clearer, so important in a 60,000 word count, right?

    It's hard to see that in your own work, how much is too much.


  11. Oh, I just love it when we have Marlena--excuse me, Ms. Fortune--in town!

    With your permission, may I address the question about "tricks" to keep track of your story details? The only real trick is to IMMEDIATELY jot down a pertinent detail the moment you write it into a scene. Whether you prefer an Excel spreadsheet (as I'm sure our resident Excel expert Pam would recommend) or a running list or a bunch of random note cards, is beside the point. DO WHAT WORKS FOR YOU.

    I personally keep a variety of info on spreadsheets--scenes, chapters, calendar dates, GMC, word count, name charts, etc. I also have a master file of family relationships, businesses in my fictional town, who works where, how old everybody is, anything I might need to know down the road.

    Whichever tools appeal to you, just remember--a tool is worthless if you don't use it.

  12. Gina!!!

    I love your feet in flip-flops.

    Now bring back the Danish and no one has to die.

    I'm serious.

    And bring some Italian Sweet Cream creamers, too, 'kay?


  13. Hello, Ms. Fortune. You and Tina are so much fun to be around. I decided my previous comment sounded mean so I deleted it. :-) I hope you don't mind.

    Speaking of strategies for keeping up with the details, my current strategy for keeping up with what color eyes each character has or what color their dress was in chapter one is to not keep up with it until I do the revision! I'm writing the first draft and don't want to slow down so I figure I'll just either jot it down in a notebook as I do my first edit, or open a new Word file especially for those details and double check them down as I revise.

  14. Ms Fortune, I feel we'd know you so much better if it wasn't for the mysterious hat.

    Somehow that hat makes all my questions seem wrong and rude.

    So, I will say that I've found contests to be a lot more like clothes than shoes. The business suit for the contemporary romance set in the big city, the sun dress for the chick lit I wrote one long, hot summer. The blue jeans and stetsons for the western romance I'm currently working on.

    We do however, agree about the food.
    But agree or disagree, for some reason, I'm always happier when you're here.

  15. Okay, Ruthy, I'll bring back the cart...but I want some more specific details on your "pimping" example.

    How did you over pimp?

    How did the judges recognize it without them realizeing that you had pimped?

    On a side note...

    Several years ago I judged the Golden Gateway. Not sure what category. I think RS. Anyhoo, I felt like the author had gone overboard in stressing the heroine's story goal. While she didn't go as far as to put it in ALL CAPS, she repeated it several times very clearly.

    I told the entrant, "I figured out the heroine's story goal the first time she mentioned it. By the third time, I was feeling like you were intentionally stressing this so the judge wouldn't miss it. By the fifth time, I felt belittled. Fortunately for you, I don't hold a grudge and can understand your reason for the repeated goal-stating. You may want to consider less emphasizing this for an editor."

    Oh, here's the creamers you requested. Now spill the detailed beans.

  16. Wow, Ruthy, how cool is that!

    Thanks for sharing.

  17. My, my, my you people have been busy. It is good to be loved and adored.

    Cathy, dear you are simply normally spicy. You qualify every day.

    The turnaround time on a contest from entry to return of your results can be up to six months. And what if your judges are...shall we say..judgementally challenged? Do not wait for one contest to complete its cycle before entering another. You aren't getting any younger you know.

    "Also, would you be able to give advice on the best use of Online writer's group resources?"

    I recommend reading your groups on the web and not in digest or single email format. I suggest a timer also. I cannot begin to suggest which groups would be beneficial to you as it is again dependent upon your personal writing journey.

    And Cathy, send your stilettos out to contests and then start the next story. Don't ever wait around for anything in this industry.

    BTW I never refer, except to my personal trainer.

  18. Melanie, no guts no glory...

    Nice girls don't make history.

  19. LOL, a trick question from Scarlett O'Hara. Very good Julie, dear.

  20. Is the Daphne Mystery Contest in at least the top TEN of contests to have won?

  21. Ann, is the manuscript completed? Don't fall into the trap of having 16 versions of a partial for every upcoming manuscript and no complete.

    Yes, too pimped would be the open toed mules with faux diamond pins.

  22. Ms Fortune, thanks for joining us again!

    I love shoes in all shapes and sizes, but cowboy boots are the best!

    Looking forward to a day of very sound advice from you : )

  23. Ann, you are in the drawing, darling. Gina also, since she reeks of danish.

    Melanie must say something audacious first.

  24. Gina-cakes, good thing you got that Danish back here before Ms.F returned!!!

    She gets tempermental when things aren't just her way. Didja see "The Devil Wears Prada???"

    Or Annie????

    Yup, we're talking a well-dressed Miss Hannigan here and I for one DO NOT want to incur her wrath.


    And the pimping...

    Okay I punched 'snap' into internal thought by adding extra descriptors (adjectives or phrases) and pumping up the insight by using some metaphors and/or analogies.

    One of these manuscripts had finaled in or won a slew of contests three years back, so I knew it connected. My thought was it didn't connect quite enough.

    So wrong.

    I didn't trust the strength of the initial story. I had rewritten the book twice, not 'pimping' but changing plot, deepening tension and layering the conflict better, some of which was advised by annE Goldsmith (Tyndale, now Grand Central)...

    And some of which was just me working hard to get better.


    Why does that take soooooooooooo long???


    Off track.

    So when these judges saw it, they immediately red-lined the additions (in some cases, not all), and these were their comments:

    "Your work is stellar. You've got a great voice and I was completely drawn into the story by both your characters and the story itself. I felt their strengths and their conflict as if I were there, in the room.

    And then I'd hit a rough spot for a few words, here or there, and then you'd be off and running again, seamless and lovely.

    What have you done to this story?"

    Well, if that's not nailing it, I don't know what is, so I went back in and removed every gratuitous word I'd put in, re-examined verb use, dropped words with repetitive meaning (in some paragraphs I found myself making my point twice, using different wording. Duh)

    And with Audra's firm ax, I slashed and burned some extra introspect.

    Those judges were direct, and one of them nailed me for a bunch of points, but it still finaled which gave me a chance to CHANGE those problems before sending the final entries off to the coordinator. I love when contests allow time to do that. I did that when I coordinated The Barclay (now defunct) even though it wasn't part of the master plan, because editors and authors deserve the best possible entry we can deliver to them, right?

    Okay, talking waaaaaaaaaaay too much.

    Ms. Fortune is right. Time to tone down the caffeine.



  25. Mary it is unfortunate that you do not find my hat to be as remarkable as I do. What is that thing you are holding dear?

  26. I understand the Golden Heart and RITA contests will be announcing soon. May I anticipate finalists from among you people in Seekerville?

  27. Marlena,

    Do you have to win first place in a contest before you get noticed?

    I won third in the Genesis. Had stellar critiques and comments, then nothing. I sent the stories out and they weren't accepted. It makes abody wonder how much they should tweak then.

    I myself am a tennis shoe and boot person, or some flats.

    Maybe that's cause I'm constantly running to get my stories out there

    If Only.

    OR perhaps it is the boots because of all the (whatever) I muck through.

    In my stories alone. LOL

    And the flats, that's cause I'm sooo tall. Nah, it's because I'm sooo clumsy.

    I honestly hope that doesn't show in my writing, but who knows.

  28. Well, Marlena--I mean, Ms. Fortune--since the prize package description was so vague: "to further culture and sophistication in the romance writing community," how do I know it's worth being audacious for? I mean, for me, audacity takes quite a bit of energy, which I need for my WIP.

    As Ruthy always says, "I'm just saying ..." Except, since I'm from Alabama, it's more, "Hey y'all, I'm just sayin' ..."

  29. Hi Marlena:

    Are you also Madam Zelda? I detect a similar genius behind your answers.


    How can you increase your chances of having a contest entry that is also on a theme currently in demand by publishers? What good is winning if your story idea can’t be sold anyway? Have you ever seen a case where the entry won and an editor said, “That was great. Send me something else you wrote”?



  30. Melanie, I'm of the mind-set that everything is worth being audacious for. Of course, I'll be the one wearing flip flops. Most audaciously as I am capable of.

    I'll leave the hat wearing for those of the fabulacious variety.

  31. Myra hit the nail on the head with her advice about tricks.

    The minute you name a secondary character Jim Bob MacGillacutty, add him to your character profile. Even if he's a secondary character, list any little detail you give him (a limp, a twitchy eye). I forget to do this a lot and it can come back to haunt me!

    And, yes, I keep all this in an excel spreadsheet, but do whatever works for you. Notecards, ringbinders, etc.

    Also, draw a map of your setting if you need to. You don't have to be an artist, and it doesn't have to be fancy. The basics will do.

    I sketched my town in pencil, adding buildings even though I didn't know what was IN the buildings. Later, when the heroine passed the Chinese Laundry, I looked at my map and saw where she'd been, that she'd just waved at Miss Maisie and Miss Janie (milliners) and jotted "Chinese Laundry" in the building next to their shop.

    The KEY is to keep it all in ONE location if possible. All my notes, characters, plotting, word count, are all in one spreadsheet, or at the very least one computer folder, ringbinder, BOX, if necessary.

  32. Pam, I love you but you're giving me a headache! The high blood pressure kind!

    You lost me (you always lose me) at spreadsheet.

    (Was that audacious? Should we let Gina judge since she's the queen?)

    I should be working. You guys are a bad influence.

  33. Tina, (lovely name)winning is over-rated. All you want is your manuscript on the editor's desk with a deadline to return it. What more can you ask for except a sale? or an auction?

  34. Vince, don't be impudent dear. Pass the croissants. Let's do lunch some time.

  35. Melanie, repeat after me:


  36. Melanie, keep reading. I also said just throw everything into a box if that works for ya! lol

  37. Interesting that Melanie read the word SPREADSHEET and stopped. A true roadblock for many of us.

    I have some questions about spread sheets. But my brain is full. If I ever find a square inch of space, I'll ask my questions.

    All this talk of danish has made me hungry. Since I eat an APPLE for lunch everyday, and a diet Coke, I suppose I'll eat that and quiety weep.

  38. Myra, who best to address tricks than you? I mean really?

  39. Janet, I completely missed your question. A thousand pardons.

    I have a wonderful person trainer referred to me by Rogenna Brewer.

  40. Ladies, what do you think? Would you rather win or have a request?

    You know Vince, you have to be proactive. When you send your thank-you note and Starbucks gift card to that editor who judged your finaling manuscript, go ahead and pitch something else. WHY NOT??

    A one sentence pitch..thank you for judging Forever Love, would you like to see the sequel, Never My Love, which is also completed?

    Now Tina darling, sometimes you simply have to wait until its your TIME. Myra, Julie, Janet and Tina R all finaled in the Golden Heart in 2005. Myra won and Julie sold first I I correct? Then Janet sold and then Myra.

  41. You are all such an audacious group that you are all in the drawing of course.

    Could someone please instruct Melanie on how to be really audacious?

    Perhaps Missy could give you lessons. My first visit here she told me my cubic ring was a honker. HONKER? Who knew Southern girls could be so...base?

  42. Tina go crazy with waiting, BIG UGH

    She buy new tennis shoes fly higher, run faster... (place the sound to bionic woman here)

    make time go by quicker :0)

    Then I'll probably hurry up and wait somemore. Oh well.

  43. Missy instructing Melanie on how to be really audacious?


    And I mean that in the most non-audactious manner.

  44. Miss Fortune, you're as delightful as always...but of course you already know that. I was wondering how long a writer should wait before after submitting a manuscript before sending a polite "remember me--you've got my story on desk" note?

  45. Ms. Fortune, let me cast apologies for Missy.

    As you're well aware, we Northern girls bear a discreet and calm countenance, with none of the reputed cheek that marks our Southern counterparts.


    But what better way to wash them in the gentility of nobility than to let them visit amongst us, gleaning what they will?

    And I love the hat.

    Are you SURE you're not accepting new clients, dear?

    Ruthy (who REALLY, REALLY likes your shoes, too.)

    And your ring.

  46. Yes, Ms. Fortune, you are so right. Winning a contest does NOT guarantee instant contract offers.

    And, um, I'm not entirely comfortable with that "trick" comment. Sounds like something maybe Julie would write about in one of her spicy love scenes. Or perhaps something you teach doggies, like "sit up" and "roll over."

    Hmmm, maybe I need a spreadsheet to figure it out.

  47. Nice to hear you followed my advice regarding the personal trainer.

    Marlena and I go way back to the good old "having our cake and eating it too" days...


  48. Someone answer the question about 'how long to wait.' I cannot have your rejection on my conscience.

    Some of the writers here have waited YEARS only to find something has been eaten by the dog.

    It is best to move on and write your next manuscript and pray the editor has a good cleaning service who will time find your manuscript behind the bookshelf.

    As for what I personally would do, well I would take the editor out for sushi and saki and once they are a little loose I would ascertain their intentions for my client.

  49. Ms. Fortune, I bit back comments for dear Lorna thinking I might step on your auspicious and audacious toes, only to have you cast her question onto the waters of public domain.

    Or some such crap.

    Okay, Lorna, follow these directions carefully:

    Walk away from the computer. Do not type a letter. Do not e-mail. Do not touch the phone.

    Step away from temptation. You will only live to regret your impudence for months, nay, YEARS.

    Take a breath.

    And another.

    And get your butt back in a chair and work on something else for heaven's sake.

    But under no circumstances should you contact aforementioned editor/agent.

    And if you do...

    Ah, well. Someone else fill her in with the possibility of known and unknown consequential actions. I'm suddenly worn and vexed beyond endurance.

    Not by you, Lorna. It's old memories, coming back to haunt me.

    Just promise me, woman. DO NOT INITIATE CONTACT.

    Got it?

    Sign me,

    Smarter Than I Used To Be

  50. Okay. Lightbulb just came on re: Ms. Marlena Fortune. I feel so silly...

    But I again enjoyed the interview, the advice, and the answers to questions, some of which I had but didn't realize.

    Like working on your ms even while awaiting feedback. It's kind of the same with a crit group, Tina but, I'm finding that even when I've changed things, there are still other improvements pointed out that I didn't see.

  51. Patricia, eventually the light bulb goes off for us all and it is a delightful moment.


  52. Lorna, the correct length of time to wait is, I believe, most unfortunately, forever.

    I don't think they like being asked.

    Just start writing your next book and FORGET IT.

  53. In fact let me be more adament.

    I believe I got a book published once because it was being used to keep a desk from wobbling. They'd used the manuscript to make a shaky leg the right length. Then, in a pinch, VOILA jerk that puppy out from under the desk and FAST, we need something in print YESTERDAY.

    So be patient.
    Write on.

  54. I have been going over my stuff. Checking and rechecking. I've sent out to contests. Got things cleaned up and sent to my agent again. Now I'm working on another story or two.

    Have checked into Crits groups, but to be quite frank.

    Crit groups are some of the reason I'm going berserk . . .

    I had a really good one and we disbanded, then I was signed up for two others and each time there was only one or two other people in the group.

    One who wasn't really doing anything and another who wasn't sending anything out.

  55. Tina P., what saved me from making even MORE stupid newbie mistakes was hooking up with Sandra as a critique partner.

    I didn't scare her (nothing does), I didn't intimidate her(that she showed), and she even let me share a room!!!!

    We critiqued for well over a year online before we met each other, and she had the 'bring it on' attitude I needed.

    Patience isn't her long suit, but that's okay because I had a lot of backlog and I'm educable. She taught me a great deal because she had the one thing I didn't. Well, two things.

    A discerning reading ability.


    It's difficult to critique if you're in a time crunch, and it's okay to not critique so much once you're pretty sure of yourself.

    But initially, when you're getting mixed signals and crossed swords from judges?

    Find a partner. Not two. Just one. They have to be willing to look at your work 'your way' not theirs. (Imagine buying a wedding gown. We want to sell you the gown that looks best on you, that makes you feel all Maggie Sorrento curvy and not Vera Wang flat-chested, even if your very-best-friend-from-elementary-school LOVES the Vera Wang because it would look great on her size 2, 5'7" frame.)

    A critique partner doesn't want to change your voice to her voice and she needs to 'see' your goals.

    And it's helpful if they like you and your work.


    Sandra's help was invaluable to me. And once we formed our group, if someone needs help they pair up with whoever is available. I've worked with Sandra, Tina, Mary, Julie, Cheryl, Deb, Camy (who probably remembers that with abject horror, but that's a story for another day), Audra, Missy, Pam, Glynna, Myra and Janet. I think the only Seeker I've never worked with (although we've posted and read each other's stuff...) is Cara.

    I think you can get to a level where it's more of a 'hey, can someone read this for me? Like tonight????' and then whoever is available jumps in.

    But that initial partner is HUGE girlfriend. And I don't mess around when I critique with someone. I may love 'em, but it's work time. No goofin' off!

    This worked waaaaay better for me than local critique groups who have to meet to critique (no time), talk about everything and everyone (repeat: no time) and waste half-an-evening I could have spent working.

    But that's just me.


    And I'm not really a tyrant... I just play one on TV. (grinning)


  56. Martinis, stilettos, personal trainers? Ms. Fortune, your interviews (or maybe it's the photo) always make me feel like I should run out and get a manicure . . . but I *love* how you tell it like it is.

    I hope you'll be back soon--if you can bear to leave 5th Ave. again. :)

  57. Got it. Wait forever. Manuscripts may be serving their God given purposes supporting editors' desk.I can live with that. Thanks for the advice. I'm already working on next ones. You all are the best!

  58. People, I must run, I am late for tini's with my therapist. As always it was a pleasure.

  59. Thanks so much for being with us Ms. Fortune. We will have our randomizer pull the winning name at 10 MST.

    Ruth is sleeping off her java binge, btw.

  60. Wah, I missed the party!
    But I did read the interview and it was awesome, as usual. :-)

    You all totally cracked me up. Did Missy really call a ring a honker? LOL, LOL, LOL
    I've lived in the south most of my life now, and I've never heard a ring called that. But, I never lived in Georgia either (where she lives, right?)
    Anyways, sounds like you all enjoyed yourselves today. I can't wait to read tomorrows post! :-)

  61. The audacious and delightful, Lorna Seilstad is the winner of our Marlena Fortune Care Package.


    Do check in with us later this month when it arrives to let the rest of us in Seekerville know if you found the care package to be a dream come true or not.

    Send your address to

  62. I'm so sorry I missed the party, Ms. Fortune! It looks like a good time was had by all.

    Thank you for once again gracing us in Seekerville. :)