When I started my journey as a novelist, I was incredibly naive. I knew how to write. I had stories to tell…badda-bing, badda-boom, published. Right?
Turns out, I had a lot to learn. Not only about how to write, but how to tell a story. There were passive verbs to deal with, the dreaded hyphen and the sheer challenge of facing the truth that all those stories running circles in my head were probably already told by someone else—better.
I could have quit. Many people do. Many continue to write, but get discouraged with the process and self-publish. A few are highly successful, others have books that sell on Amazon to their mother and their Aunt Peg. Nothing against Mom and Aunt Peg, but I’m more ambitious than that and I have a teensy problem with taking no for an answer, especially without a reason.
That’s the rub in the publishing world. When you most need the feedback—when you are new to the industry and learning—you are least likely to get it. If you are tenacious and willing, there are critique groups a plenty all over the world. Some of them even function online. In these fabulous playgrounds for writers, you can have a person who has never published eviscerate your work—FOR FREE.
You can also find out that your habit of over-explaining emotional content is annoying. That readers want a little mystery, even in a romance, and that you are really good at building characters, but your grammar sucks (as in—even if you hate the rule, you can’t ignore the rule—that’s the rule).
So… in my desire to get feedback, to find out if I was heading in the right direction and to discover people struggling in the same way I was, I joined critique groups. I found that writers ran the gamut of expertise. One gentleman in my favorite group writes the most amazing science fiction. He underlined every form of be used in my writing. The result? I never use the word “was” without exhausting the thesaurus for a verb that says it better.
Another was young, a brilliant fantasy writer who is highly adept at hammering run-on sentences and useless words from a manuscript (even when they were my favorite). Many others came and went from our group over time. Some of them brilliant, most of them attended one night and never came back. But Monday night after Monday night I got there.
I got better… and better. I remember the first time I presented a chapter, read it aloud and got the hard copies handed back to me with a couple of commas moved or added and nothing else. I remember the first time I made the rest of the group cry when I had constructed a moving, pentacle scene. I remember the night I drove thirty minutes and paid tolls to tell the group in person that I had signed with Liza Fleissig at LRA.
I would love to end this post with the dramatic and moving story of what it was like when I finally signed the contract with a major publisher, but the title of this post is Patience for a reason. Publishing is a waiting game and I am still waiting. Liza is amazing and supportive. My manuscript is sitting with a publisher as we speak. I hope it is being read.
In the mean time, I write. I present my work on a regular basis for review and critique with people I trust and I keep telling stories.