A: Be an SCBWI member! Individual paid manuscript critiques are open to SCBWI members only. You can be a member of any region, not just the Midsouth. Make sure your membership is current.
B: Be informed! Because COVID precautions make face-to-face critiques difficult, this year the Midsouth Conference will only offer written critiques. You have two different paid critique options: 1) written critique, choose your own critiquer ($79), or 2) written critique, critiquer chosen for you ($55). For more information, see the manuscript critiques and submissions page. Read your options thoroughly and choose which experience may be best for you. If choosing your own critiquer, be sure to research the faculty in order to choose which person might be the best fit for you and your work. This means not choosing a picture book editor to critique your YA Fantasy, etc.!
C: Be prompt! Your manuscript must be emailed by the due date given in the conference website. We have promised to deliver your manuscript to your critiquer by a certain date. If we don’t have your pages, we can’t deliver them. See the conference website for email instructions, including the correct email address and subject line, as well as the cut-off date. Refunds for paid manuscript critiques are not available.
D: Be detailed! Your manuscript must have the correct formatting and number of pages, as specified on the conference website. Read the website instructions for formatting and submission guidelines AND FOLLOW THEM. Follow the link to sample pages if needed, and when in doubt ASK QUESTIONS (email Diane Telgen at email@example.com). If your manuscript arrives with formatting issues, we’ll let you know and give you a chance to resubmit, but you still need to make that due date.
E: Be PROFESSIONAL. We all submit our work for critique with a sense of hope. While it would be a dream for an editor or agent to ask to represent or publish your manuscript, this is an extremely RARE occurrence. More likely, they will simply give feedback and perhaps … PERHAPS … ask you to submit to them after the conference. In ANY case, we are expected to act in a professional manner. Treat your critiquer as a co-worker/professional peer deserving of respect. Thanking them in the hallway for a helpful critique is acceptable; chasing them into the bathroom to demand an explanation of a criticism is not. Hounding faculty, raised voices, rude or unkind words, or behavior otherwise deemed inappropriate or abusive will not be tolerated. If you are asked to leave the conference, refunds will not be issued. Of course, this probably goes without saying. We ALL know how to treat other amazing human beings with kindness and respect!
F: Be excited! Someone great is going to critique your manuscript.
The Midsouth does not randomly match critiquers with manuscripts, nor do we dole out manuscripts in the order they arrive. Each manuscript is read thoroughly and matched to the very, very best critiquer possible. We strive to give each attendee the most pertinent, useful information about their writing. This is a process with many variables! The number of critiques a faculty member is willing to do, what genres a faculty member has requested to see (or to not see!), and how many critique slots are available for a specific age level are all factors that must be taken into consideration. It could mean, for example, that almost all middle grade fantasy goes to an agent one year while almost all middle grade fantasy goes to an editor the next year. It’s a giant puzzle requiring time and brain power to sort! It is the passion, goal, and mission of SCBWI Midsouth that every manuscript finds the opportunity for improvement and every writer finds their dream editor or agent.
G: Be ready! Written-only critiques will be in your conference folder when you pick it up at registration. Read your critiquer’s comments thoroughly, take the time to digest them, and then read them again. And again. You may not have the advantage of your critiquer’s inflections or tone of voice with a written-only critique, but you do have the advantage of pondering their exact thoughts several times. If you’re puzzled about portions of your critique, ask a fellow attendee for their opinion. It’s another way to make connections with your peers at the conference!
Critique = Constructive Criticism = Better Manuscript = Better Writer
With the right attitude and preparation, your individual paid manuscript critique will provide a springboard to improve your writing.