After spending years honing my craft, attending workshops and critique groups, and writing, writing, writing, and then rewriting I know how much time and effort most people put into honing their craft. So I admit I was jealous when a writer I met at a workshop told me she’d never taken a writing class or joined a critique group but she had written an 85,000-word novel in a month—and not even for NaNo. She just decided one day that she wanted to be a writer, and, presto, one month later, she had a complete novel. As she described it, the novel just flowed out of her. She said it came to her in a flash, and she felt as if all she had to do was dictate it.
I’ve had that happen to me on occasion, and I love being in that zone. But never with a whole novel. Bits and pieces here and there, yes. But the parts in between took a LOT of work. So I sighed and tried to contain the green-eyed monster twisting inside me, taunting, “So why can’t you do that? Why did it take you 20 years to get a book published? What’s wrong with you?” I admit it made me feel discouraged, and I wondered why I’d had to put in such long, hard hours to eke out a book. OK, so she only had 3 children, whereas I had 5, but still…
This writer was quite proud of her book and assured us that she was so sure it was publishable that she didn’t feel it needed revision. She’d had a few people read it, and they all loved it. She’d gone through and tweaked a few words and phrases, but she’d already started submitting. Sigh…
Several months later, she offered me the opportunity to read it. Everyone she’d sent it to had rejected it, and she was wondering why. Could I tell her what I thought?
I read the first page. Everything about it screamed amateur—from the head hopping to the lack of plot to the plethora of exclamation points to the misspellings that spell check hadn’t caught (there instead of their; are rather than our). What would I tell her? Where to start?
“Who read this for you?” I asked.
She smiled. “My mom, my husband, and my sister. They all loved it.”
Ah, amateur mistake #1: asking family members’ opinions of your writing
Mistake # 2—believing them when they tell you it’s great
Mistake #3—thinking writing is so easy anyone can do it
Mistake #4—not getting professional evaluations before you submit
The list could go on and on, but I want to concentrate on the fourth mistake. The most valuable resource any writer can have is a critique group. If you don’t have one, join one ASAP. Find an online group if there are no groups that meet in your area. Look for members who are supportive, but honest. Only other writers will have enough knowledge to tell you the truth and explain how to fix problems. But remember, if you want to be a professional and get published, you can’t have a thin skin; true writers welcome criticism and editing suggestions. Whatever you do, don’t send any submission out without first running it by a critique group. If other writers have evaluated your manuscript and made suggestions to improve it, you have a much greater chance of getting an acceptance letter. And isn’t that what we’re all after?
I couldn’t have gotten published without all the guidance and instruction I received from fellow writers. And my CPs are my biggest cheerleaders. Best of all, they’re often your first sales.
So what’s the best advice or words of encouragement you’ve ever gotten from a CP? We’d love to hear it. And one commenter will win a free e-copy of Summer Lovin’.
INFO ABOUT Laurie J. Edwards and Summer Lovin’
Laurie J. Edwards is the author of 2 published books--"Summer Storms" in the anthology Summer Lovin' (Wild Rose Press) and the biography Rihanna (People in the News) from Lucent and more than 1000 articles in national publications and educational databases. She is presently under contract for a book about pirates and is completing 3 romance novels.
SUMMER LOVIN' is a collection of love stories by authors Dara Edmondson, Laurie J. Edwards, Mona Ingram, Kimberlee R. Mendoza, Sydney Shay, and June Sproat about life on a ranch, summer jobs, sandcastle competitions, the tragedy of a flood, and falling in love with a rock star.
Laurie's story in the anthology is "Summer Storms": Sixteen-year-old Paige nearly drowns as she rescues a Pomeranian trapped in floodwaters that sweep through her town. Chase, the hottie who saves her, wants to help her and her mother, but Paige won't accept charity. And can she risk him unmasking the family secret she's kept hidden?
http://lje1.wordpress.com/ and an excerpt for Summer Lovin' is at
http://lje1.wordpress.com/my-books/book-excerpts/ . People can also friend her on Facebook, Twitter, and MySpace.