Angie Azur is a YA Sci-fi Writer.
Writer for PALEO Magazine.
Former Intern at the Andrea Brown Literary Agency.
SCBWI & COWG Member.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Eric Elfman - Genius Writing Coach

Okay - So I've racked up 6 rejections on REDWOOD BLOOD. I know that's not a lot and in fact two of them were very nice, personal rejections. One actually asked me to send other work. Those are good signs on the road to publication. But still, I am a perfectionist and so 6 rejections got me revising. Or so I thought.

I knew I needed to go deeper and not just redo some lines and change choice words. I needed something, something big, something different, something I could not see for myself. My critique group had already done their job, and helped me greatly, so I decided to get a new set of eyes to read my first few chapters. It had to be someone I admired, someone I liked personally, and someone who got my way of writing. I am not flowery. I am not emotional. I am strong and to the point.

I sat, gazing out of my office window, thinking about this. I knew I had met someone a few months ago -- what was his name? He was cool. He led one of the critique groups at Big Sur. He was brutally honest, which I admire. And his name popped into my head - ERIC ELFMAN. I emailed him. He remembered me. Good.

I explained my situation, that I had 6 rejections, 2 very personal. I attached those in my email. He agreed for a small fee to check out my first 4 chapters. I sent them and waited. I got a quick email back that he had received them, but he was working with another writer and would be getting back to me within two weeks.

I kept writing in the meantime - tweaking, revising (so I thought). Then I got an email asking when he could call me to go over my chapters. Anytime, I answered. We set up a time for the next day. And when he called, I jumped for the phone.

On the line, Eric is just as funny, just as brutally honest and just as brilliant. We chatted, and by that I mean, he pretty much spoke and I devoured for over 2 1/2 hours. I took notes - 11 hand written pages in total. And I learned A LOT! When I thought I was revising, I was merely tapping the surface with my fingernail. I hadn't really gotten in there. I hadn't really amped things up.

We finished the call on a positive note. The plot peaked his interest. He's into some of the characters, but where I thought I had explosions, I needed to add nuclear missiles. I took a deep breath. I really thought it could have gone two ways. One - OMG this is ready for publication! or Two - this sucks, so hang it up. But it went a Third way: this is good, but not great - it needs to be great - you can make it great - do the work!!

I've been doing the work this past month. I have been really revising for the first time. I have switched from 3rd person to 1st. I have deleted whole scenes. I have written side pages about each character just so I know them better. I have added bombs, missiles, and sneak explosions. I am doing the work and getting closer.

Eric's honesty and suggestions have pushed me to be a better writer. Here are a few of his tips in the hopes that it helps you become a better writer too:

  • Ground your real world more solidly: use smells, food, clothes
  • MG needs to be contemporary - need to see computers, cell phones, etc
  • Justify why your MC is thinking about things
  • Escalate scenes of tension (you might think they're already amped up, but you can spike them.)
  • Milk your action moments
  • Slow down creepy parts so the reader gets creeped out
  • No jumping into other characters - unless you've established this early on
  • Don't go too academic - be sure every description is from your MC's POV
  • Always keep things happening - moving forward - no dull scenes

Now I've seen similar tips in writer's magazines as well as other blogs - but what Eric did was take each of my scenes and explain what was or wasn't working using these points. It was like having an editor with great ideas helping me write. 

I am so thankful. I am so glad I had the extra bucks to invest in his critique. And I so recommend him to you if you think you are ready to send your ms out to agents/publishers. 

Here is his contact website:

Good luck and keep moving forward.


  1. Yes, I agree. He was my critique group leader at Big Sur and he was amazing!

  2. Eric is genius in what he does - has helped me with my book. I'm sooo lucky our paths have crossed!

  3. Thanks to both of you. I am new to blogging so I am slow still - getting better. Do either of you know where to add the facebook and twitter codes to have them show up on my blog?