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Working With a Manuscript Consultant
by Sonia Koso
As I completed the first draft of Smart Blondes, I was thrilled with the sense of accomplishment. As I started reading, re-reading and editing, I soon realized I needed feedback. I had a bit of a problem: I was absolutely terrified of having someone else read it. In fact, I had hid that I was writing it from just about everyone in my life.
In an anxiety-fueled fit of insanity, I posted the manuscript in blog form and asked three “beta” readers to take a look. All were helpful and it made me slightly less horrified at the thought of letting other humans see it. However, they were not writers and couldn’t push me where I needed to go.
Enter WritebyNight, a writer’s service then located in Austin (www.writebynight.com). The name caught my eye because this was how I had been writing: after work and sometimes very late into the night. In the description of who they are and what they do, the phrase “get a specific project off the ground or complete a project you’ve started” jumped out at me. At the time, Writebynight had an office/writers loft in uber-hip East Austin. They have since moved to New York but are able to assist writers nationwide.
It was not without trepidation that I made an appointment with Justine Tal Goldberg, a member of the WBN Management team. In the scant block between my car and the front door of the WBN office, I considered turning around more than once. I’m not a real writer, I thought, I don’t belong here. My ingrained Southern manners wouldn’t hear of me blowing off an appointment so I forced myself to go.
Justine, who has vast experience with frustrated, frightened, and neurotic writers, immediately put me at ease. She started off by asking about the story, where I was in the process, my experience level and what my goals were. I heard myself saying: “I want it to be good and I want it to be published.” She suggested a manuscript consultation and explained that this was ideal for writers who have completed or are close to completing a full draft.
I was matched with the very talented Cecily Sailer as my consultant. I met with Cecily at a local coffee shop and discussed the book for an hour before she began her critique. Again, I was met with a lack of confidence: Cecily is a real writer…what if my stuff sucks?
After a couple of weeks, Cecily provided me a copy of my manuscript with in depth notes on point of view, voice, setting, characterization and style. The comments, both critical and complimentary, bolstered my writing confidence. She identified with specificity what was working, what was not working, what could be improved and suggestions on how to make those improvements. It was a writer’s road map of how to get out of the places where I was stuck. This was exactly what I needed to take my manuscript from merely written to polished.
I have since learned that quite a few big-name writers have manuscript consultants on their payrolls. A consultation is not inexpensive. The initial meeting was $99 and the consultation was $35 per hour but the coaching and direction I received was priceless. Without WritebyNight, my novel would likely still be languishing somewhere in the digital recesses of my laptop, never seeing the light of day.
“Like” Sonia on facebook (https://www.facebook.com/sonia.koso) for a chance to win a Vera Bradley “Canterbury Magenta” tote or a $25 gift card to Sephora.
About Smart Blondes
Austin socialite Carrie Pryce has no clue her criminally charming husband is carrying on with another woman until she returns home unexpectedly, mistakes the sounds of passion for a home-invasion robbery and accidentally shoots him in the backside. Stunned, Carrie drives all night to her quirky hometown and collapses in a near-catatonic state.
A crew of ladies spanning three generations realize it’s up to them to help Carrie get her life out of the ditch. Known as the “Presbyterian Mafia,” these are not sweet old gals. They have a book club that never reads, a garden club that doesn’t garden, and a bible study class that gossips about the Methodists. They’re known around town for antics including catfights, car chases and Voodoo rituals. The women enlist Carrie’s former childhood best friend Portia (now a lawyer) and her flamboyant cousin Eric (recently returned from New York) in their effort.
While dealing with the after-effects of her imprudent gunplay and managing a hair color disaster, Carrie meets Rhett Richards. He’s an attractive oil field worker who can make women think un-Christian thoughts by the mere act of wearing a pair of tight wranglers. Carrie soon learns that hometowns can be the perfect places to bury old scandals and create new ones.
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“Baby, put the gun down,” Jake said in a tone of voice one would use with a naughty three year old. “It’s…it’s not what you think.”
Carrie froze. She couldn’t have lowered her arms if she tried. As she scanned the room, she saw the remnants of a well-planned romantic event including champagne, massage oil, and discarded lingerie.
Jake was slowly moving away from the defiled kitchen island and found a potholder to shield his now deflating manhood.
“I wanted to tell you for a while,” Jake started. “I hate that you had to find out about it this way.” Carrie recognized this as his salesman tone of voice—over-articulated, round tones that were completely full of shit.
“This has been going on for a while?” Carrie asked. Jake looked down and then nodded his head.
He exhaled slowly and gazed downward, his default action before saying something awful. “We’ve been having problems…I’ve tried, but the excitement is gone.”
Excitement? Carrie immediately knew this was man code for I want to trade you in for a new one. She’d seen it many times but never thought it would happen to her. The phrase I’ve tried but the excitement is gone would run through her head in a relentless loop a thousand times.
“I need to be on my own for a while,” Jake continued in round tones. “With you and Kayley around, I can’t figure any of this out. I can’t be a grown man. I need fewer responsibilities…”
“You want me and Kayley to leave so you can figure out how to be a grown man? Jesus H. Christ!” Carrie screamed it more than speaking it. She couldn’t help herself.
“Maybe you need to get a few things,” Jake began, “And I’ll call the Driskill Hotel and get you a suite. We’ll talk in a day or two after we both cool down.”
“Let me get this straight. I walk in on you with your cock in the help… and you think I need to leave?” She firmed up her grip on the tiny Kel-Tec pistol. “I’m not leaving this house, this room or even that damn Aga!” It was an out-of-body experience. She wasn’t sure why she did it but Carrie fired the pistol at the stove.
There was bang followed by a ping and a whoosh and Jake’s scream. The bullet hit the front of the Aga, ricocheted off the cast iron and bounced into Jake’s naked butt cheek.
The next few seconds seemed like a year. Jake’s hand went to his ass then up to his face where he saw blood.
“Holy shit, Carrie!”
About the Author
Sonia Koso grew up in the eccentricity-filled piney woods of Northeast Texas. She has been writing since an early age and considers it her first love. After receiving a B.A. in English Writing, her life took a drastic turn and she went to law school. Sonia practiced law for over a decade but was drawn back to writing in 2012. Sonia’s stories feature strong women, good-looking guys, legal dilemmas and a dose of humor. Smart Blondes borrows many characters from her childhood as well as her legal career.
Sonia does most of her writing at her condo in Austin’s hip SOCO district. It’s in walking distance from landmarks including Lady Bird Lake, the Continental Club, and the Congress Avenue Bat Bridge. When not writing, Sonia divides her time between the live music of Austin and the sunshine of Boca Raton. She loves Tex-Mex food, blue water, cocktails and good friends. Sonia often dreams of a man who can do his own laundry and a walk-in closet with a chandelier…but not necessarily in that order.
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