If I could go back in time and give advice to my new writer self, what would I say? Easy. SHARE YOUR WORK WITH A CRITIQUE PARTNER.
The conversation would go something like this:
ME 2014: Please do not send that time-travel you just wrote to the agents you have listed in that notebook.
ME 2009: Why not? I had my cousin read it, and he loved it.
ME 2014: Let me list the reasons.
- Because your cousin is an architect, not a writer.
- Because you’ve only been a reader and know absolutely nothing about being a writer.
- Because you’ve head-hopped throughout the manuscript.
- Because you haven’t researched the era.
- Because your hero’s conflict is weak.
- Because, I could go on and on. So let’s just sum it up, IT SUCKS.
ME 2009: OOPS. Too late.
My advice to new writers is, get a critique partner who is not your cousin. You need to show your work to other writers.
You’re probably thinking, “But Lori of today, what if it’s bad?”
Oh trust me, IT’S BAD! And that’s okay. Before you reach inside your computer and choke me, let me clarify. I’m sure the story is fantastic. It’s the technicalities of the writing craft that probably could use some improvement. The things your editor/agent expect in a good story (goal, conflict, motivation, believable characters, and realistic dialogue) may be missing.
It’s okay if your writing isn’t perfect in the beginning. We’ve all been there. Do you know how many times the Bad Girlz have laughed about how naive we were when we first started writing? Lots!
If you only learn one thing from my many blogs on writing, let it be the importance of a critique partner. You’ve got to share your manuscript with other writers before you submit it for publication. I know this isn’t a simple request. To be honest, it was the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my writing career. However, I knew if I wanted my stories to be read by people other than my family, I had no choice.
“What if they tell me it’s horrible and I need to stop writing?”
A good critique partner will teach and support. If anyone ever tells you to stop writing, GET A NEW CRITIQUE PARTNER!
Better yet, get more than one. You’ll be surprised how often each person will catch different things. And it’s important to get a second opinion. If one tells you to delete a scene and you feel it is significant to the plot, before you remove it, let your other critique partner weigh in.
Trust me. It’s much better for them to catch the mistakes than an editor or agent. Industry professionals don’t have time to teach writers craft. They expect us to know it. Don’t let your manuscript end up in a slush pile, along with 2009 Lori’s time travel, because you submitted without the review of critique partners.
Release the white knuckled grip you have on your manuscript and pass it on so other writers can help you get it in shape. YOU CAN DO IT!
Remember to Dream Big!