The Envy Test

My critique group met Friday night to talk, review and, of course, eat. (Don’t all good critique groups feature food?) The best part of the evening was realizing that my first three chapters are done, never to be rewritten again…at least not until I get notes from my agent, and then my editor…well, you get the picture. How do I know they’re done? Holly Black says so.

Holly Black was one of my favorite speakers at SCBWI-LA. She’s bubbly and enthusiastic, she has great advice and she writes books that I love to read. We all know that finding critique partners can be difficult. But as Holly pointed out during her breakout workshop on critiquing, you don’t just want people that you trust. You also have to not be so annoyed by them that you ignore everything they say, or so intimidated by them that you can’t offer honest critiques of their work. You don’t all have to write in the same genre, but these people need to get you.

She also offered up my favorite tip for knowing that something is ready to send out. She called it “The Envy Test.”

If somebody’s work makes me sort of envious, and maybe a little bit angry, then I know that it’s ready to go out. Like if I’m thinking Oh my god, you totally nailed it! I’m really angry right now. I wish I wrote that! then it’s ready. You want to have a little jealousy, because if you don’t, it’s not gonna spur you, it’s not gonna push you. You’re not going to want to rise up to that level.

Since I was the only one who attended this session, I had planned to bring my notes to share with everyone. But as I scrambled on Friday night to get out the door, finish making dinner for my family and bring along my comments on everyone else’s writing, I forgot to grab my Holly notes. They’d have to hear about the Envy Test another time. So when Gwen commented about some scenes that she thought were perfect, I held my breath. And when Lori said that she was totally jealous of my chapter endings, I got giddy. If Holly Black’s Envy Test is to be trusted, then my chapters are finally ready! Finally!

Of course, that’s just the first three chapters. My task for this week is to make sure the remaining chapters make critiquers equally envious so that I can send this baby on its way.

Has somebody else’s writing ever made you jealous? Tell them! It just might make their day 🙂

22 thoughts on “The Envy Test

  1. That is AWESOME advice. We recently read an MS and were eaten up with jealousy. The author is about to go on sub so she'll probably go to auction and then we'll really hate her! Ha!

    I love this. Great post, Sherrie!

  2. It's certainly a great gauge. There's a telling difference between feedback that can be interpreted as being nice (honestly or not) and feedback that goes beyond that into true excitement and, yes, even jealousy.

    I have a few of these gems and they're what I turn to when I'm feeling down about my writing.

    Congrats on the great feedback you got on your first three chapters!

  3. PJ: It IS fun to see the story progress, isn't it?

    LiLa: I have a feeling YOU two will be the ones on auction, then we'll all be green!

    Debra: Here's hoping your crit partners hate you =)

    Casey: 'Nice' feedback isn't usually helpful. If something's wrong, I want to know where so I can fix it. And when people love it, that's great to know, too!

    Susan: Excellent–share the jealousy! 🙂

    Elana: You are SO welcome!

  4. Because “Holly Black says so.” Man, I got chills from this.

    Love this advice and even more, I'm thrilled your chapters passed The Envy Test. Congrats!

  5. That is a cool way to look at it. I so have read some of my group's work and said, “I wish I could write like that.” or “I wish I would have thought of that.”
    Congrats for passing the envy test!!

  6. I get jealous of people's writing all the time! I agree that the Envy test is a great way to go. The only problem is that I never know if people are jealous or not because they never tell me. I'm always getting critiques that tell me how to improve. But that's what I want! I'll get there one day. 😀

  7. Congrats on getting the chapters perfected. 😀

    And great advice. It definitely gives an edge to “I loved it” comments… 😉

    Thanks for the great post.


  8. Thanks for this post. I didn't attend Holly's session because I went to another one. I loved her keynote speech with the white board, though. It was like being back at school.

    So I just have to make my crit group jealous? Hmmm. I'd better get to work then. 😀

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