• Bridge Ladies

    Bridge Ladies When I set out to learn about my mother's bridge club, the Jewish octogenarians behind the matching outfits and accessories, I never expected to fall in love with them. This is the story of the ladies, their game, their gen, and the ragged path that led me back to my mother.
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On The Day That YOu Were Born THe Angels Got Together

A very wise and generous person read my script and had the following insight about my so called unlikeable main character. He said that it wasn’t really his story and that the emphasis was misguided. In fact, I had started the movie with him and it’s really about the female lead. Start with her. He thought the character was fine, he needed to be minimized, co-opted differently. In all my years of editing authors, I had never proposed an insight like this. It was a lightening bolt and I’ve been re-writing like a mother fucker ever since. I’m talking like the old days getting up at five and keeping at it until my back cries for mercy. Other readers helped me kiss good bye some awful flashbacks, and quash some really stupid scenes. And I’m told Goth is out. Good to know.

I’m almost finished now and I just can’t believe how that one key unlocked the whole mother fucking thing for me. I’m not going to say it’s like giving birth because writing is so much harder than popping out a cherub. Anyway, dear kind sir and friends, thank you. May the lord bless everyone with astute and generous   readers.

What is the worst piece of feedback you ever received?


68 Responses

  1. First agent I ever queried 15 years ago said that she hated my book and that my main character was “cliched, unlikable, and totally lacking in creativity.”

    On my good days, I like to think she simply forgot she was writing rejection letters to actual, living people.

  2. “I just do not have the right vision for this novel.” These words ended an agent/author relationship which I cherished. I’ll always have a special place in my heart for my former agent. She’s amazing and I miss her and I truly appreciate all the work she did to sell a previous novel.

    The “troublesome” novel sold to FSG and did well. The agent (my present one) is amazing and I truly appreciate all the work she has done to sell my last two books.

    I’ve been lucky.

  3. This is so awesome! I hope you reward your reviewer appropriately.


    Worst feedback: “Did you really write this? I suspect you ripped off your girlfriend’s poetry. The voice sounds like a girl with daddy issues.”

    Me: **CRUSHED**

  4. One of my critique partners told me that my characters were too depressed. They needed to lighten up, already. She was right.

    I can be so dramatic sometimes.

    PS. Congrats on all that rewriting fervor. What a great feeling!

  5. Some producer said the dog should rescue the duck. That was dumb. The duck should ride out of the fire on the dog’s back! Sooooo dumb.

    The worst piece of feedback I’ve gotten over and over goes something like “But WHY does A make the choice that the whole story hinges on?” Why does Luke buy C3PO and R2D2? Because if he didn’t, we wouldn’t have a story. Why did he take the duck? Argh!

  6. Very exciting this! I look forward to hearing your acceptance speech at the Oscars.

    I am about to receive my best and worst feedback I’d say. Book release date fast approaches. Cover me, I’m going in …

  7. The worse feedback I ever received was that there was too much dialogue. Remember the good ol’ days when characters actually spoke to each other in whole sentences/paragraphs, rather than “shooting” witty one-liners at each other?

  8. The worst piece of feedback I ever received was probably, “Your novel is 20,000 words too short.”

    Sounds like you received a different kind of feedback, Betsy. Best wishes on the rewrite.

  9. An editor told me that one aspect of my current WIP was, “silly.” Writhe, roll, turn your insides out…but she was right.

  10. Two pieces of bad feedback come to mind:

    “This was a waste of my time. No one wants to read about this stuff,” from a member of my ex-critique group and needs no explanation.


    “I think the the mouse should talk!” This needs too much explanation . . . but it was a *headdesk* moment..

  11. “Nobody wants to read about an ugly girl.” was what one potential agent had to say. I couldn’t get off the phone fast enough.

  12. I have wiped it from my memory, except for the part with exclamation points: “The narrator (You!!!!!!!) is pretentious and cruel.”

    Me and my Me-moir.

  13. Friend of mine went all whacko because of my use of the word “albeit” in a story. It was as if nothing else mattered but that freaking word to him. I don’t know if he even read the story or just got hung up on the word “albeit.” Indeed. Pissed me right off. Of course, he was right; the word didn’t fit so I changed it. Now, about writing being harder than popping out a baberoni — I’ve never had a baby, but I was there when my wife was in labor and it’s possible she’s blocked out all the sweat, back pain, muscle clenching and screaming (not to mention the blood, shakes and skin stretching), but I haven’t forgotten it.
    Congratulations on finding an insightful reader!

    p.s.– are those cherubs Hummels? My mother had a few of those little angels, but none survived my childhood intact.

  14. “That scene with the sweater? Did you discuss that with your therapist?”

  15. what genre would you describe it as?

    No, maybe that was the best.

  16. Someone said one of my characters “verbally abused” her boyfriend on the fourth day. I read and re-read and cannot see it.
    Everything else I can spin.

  17. “That’s the worst sentence I have ever read in my entire life,” spat my husband, the man who has read everything ever written since the beginning of time.

    • Spat? Seriously?

      • He’s always responding in inappropriate ways. It took him years to finally get the gist of saying goodbye over the phone. When he was done talking, he’d just hang up on me. If he didn’t know how to love as well as he does, I’d have left a long time ago.

  18. Happy for you, Besty.

  19. My worst piece of feedback, to a single chapter: “I couldn’t finish it.”

    I’m very glad to see the ‘motherfuckers’ in your blog today, Betsy. Always a good sign. Take an Advil or three and keep writing.

  20. I agree about the writing vs. birthing thing. The former is so freaking much harder it’s almost laughable. If I could give birth to a novel, I’d choose that any day. (Eew. Try not to visualize that. Not a pretty picture.)
    But teaching high school English was the hardest thing I have ever done, hands down.

  21. Gee, I have two vying for that honor:
    1. the paragraph written by a member of my ex-critique group on how much she didn’t like the title to my WIP
    2. the assessment that my heroine was a bitch and all the people who wronged her should be the protagonists (granted, this agent worked for a firm that represented mostly erotic-romance, so in that sense, such a rewrite may have worked for her. I wouldn’t have been able to live with myself by agreeing to that perspective).

  22. It’s amazing how pulling one thread can make the whole fabric change colour. Good luck with the rewriting and this sounds like a tricky film.

    My most damning feedback? This sounds like a bad translation.

  23. From an editor:~ “No, no, no, no, no …you cannot use the word ‘crap’.”
    And you mustn’t say your MC’s enemy is a ‘tart’. Use ‘strumpet’.

  24. From one of my fellow MA students “An exercise in egotism”

  25. Congratulations on being given a key! It sounds like it’s all coming together now!

    I wrote an essay on some aspect of evolution, and a student assigned to critique it said she couldn’t, because she was a Christian.

  26. Just yesterday I received an extensive email from a reader who took it upon herself to offer me writing tips. Maybe I’ve been doing this too long, but when she mentioned that I might want to give some thought to her idiotic suggestions—I sent her back some of my own. Feedback…do not seek it from those who do not have your best interests at heart. Agent feedback, I have found to be the least helpful. Editor feedback only slightly better. These people are looking at your book not wholly as a creative work, but as a product, which is fine since selling it is how they make their living, but know it. (If anyone actually knew what made a book appealing to buyers they’d all be bestsellers.) Grain of salt.

  27. ‘Yeah…it’s…okay.’ said by someone who (I know) hadn’t read the whole of the novel, to his friend who was a writer, when she asked him what my novel was like. While I sat there, tongue tied, shrinking by the moment.

  28. Someone once suggested a I add more exclamation points to my novel.

  29. I’m so happy for you and your lightening bolt! It is so great to have those Eureka moments where you feel like you know just what to do!

    My worst: I once read a short story for my critique group about a lesbian who kills her lover’s dog after they break up. A member of my group who wrote children’s stories suggested that I rewrite it from the point of view of the dog. Huh??

  30. This reads exactly like a New Yorker story — meaning it has no ending.

    Is this supposed to be funny?

    I didn’t walk away with anything.

    I understand it but I don’t.

    Maybe you could use more contractions.

    Too many words!

  31. Congrats on the great advice and revitalized writer-power.

    My worst feedback:

    “Could be the worst book ever written.” (A fucking Amazon drive-by.)

    But the first sentence of the most recent review includes: “…post-apocalyptic fiction at its finest.”

    Critics. Whatta’ya gonna do?

  32. Atta girl! I’m toasting tonight to you and your epiphany.

  33. The worst feedback I’ve ever received was “I’d like this story a lot more if it were…you know…a different story.”


    That’s SUPER helpful.

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