My dad was one of those folks that took privacy to a whole new level. Some called him conspiracy theorist. Funny – today we see some of his complaints coming to pass, but I don’t think anyone ever followed Dad around Houston. He took a different route every time to get where he was going. My husband who went into business with him for a short period of time called driving with Dad, “The Witness Protection Route.”
Knowing that background, would you be surprised if I told you I used to be afraid of showing my work, for fear someone would steal my idea? Certainly we need to be careful who we share with – look at Stephanie Meyer’s leak of Midnight Sun (which I liked better than Twilight. Yeah, I read it off her site – I wish she’d finish it). Still, if you never show your work to anyone, you’ll have a lot harder time improving.
Join a “critique group”. Find some guinea pigs within your target audience. Listen to your feedback. Be open-minded, and be willing to change. Some say “get a tough skin.” I don’t know if I’ll ever grow a tough skin, but I can listen objectively and remind myself that the critiques are given so I can improve. Do I want to be published, or do I want to be right?
Here’s the kicker though – watch who you’re listening to. I’m not a high fantasy type of girl – I read it on occasion, but I’m not that into it. I found myself having to critique several high fantasy manuscripts at the conference. It was a stretch for me, especially since some of them were adult high fantasy, & I’d never critiqued anything like that before – I don’t know the rules for it. I made sure that I prefaced everything that I said with those facts so they understood where I was coming from. I was not offended if they dismissed my critiques, knowing that although I took it seriously and did my best, I might be way off-base.
When it came to my own manuscript, I found having had a year of showing off helped me be even more open-minded than ever. I received a critique that dealt with high school stereotypes. As the discussion progressed, I figured out most of the teens I had read over my manuscript (and thought it was great & where’s the rest please, Mrs. Schulmire?) were home-schooled, or dual enrolled. To them, the only stereotypes they deal with are “home-schoolers are social misfits (NOT) and public-schoolers are all brainless twerps (NOT).” It hadn’t occurred to me that I was missing the mark on my target audience.
By the same token, those home-schooled teens helped me discern NOT to listen to a woman who said my boy protagonist had a girl voice. Everyone else in the room disagreed, and worried I would listen to her. I knew he didn’t. I’d had more than 25 teens read over it, and 5 adults. I was pretty confident my protagonist was ALL boy.
So be a show off. Get in a critique group with folks in your genre that understand the ins and outs of the editing/publishing world – they’ll know the pitfalls to watch out for. Get a group of readers in your target audience to read your stuff – listen to their likes and dislikes (it’s just as important to know your strengths as it is to know your flaws). And don’t forget to get a few readers who aren’t in your genre – you never know when they’ll have something to say that will make you see things in a different light.
🙂 Yes, I’ve been enjoy this blog.
I have it linked from my blog but I don’t think anyone but me has ever seen it.
I’m wondering how to change that. :s
On no problem – I just didn’t want to hurt your feelings if I hadn’t told you but had told Mom. I thought I had, but wanted to make sure. 😉
We’ll figure the readers thing out together. hehe 😀
I am getting technically more adept. I made a link on my side bar to this blog…check it out!
Cool! I’ll have to figure out which blog…. hee hee! 😀
This is a post with great advice. I think it is very difficult to write a critique that is fair and easy to write one that is too critical. I had a novel of mine critiqued by my former agent and it was so harsh I decided not to write again (that decision lasted for about 5 years.) Many people have read the novel since and cannot see why she was so tough on me. She said it was to make me a better writer but I felt she was actually saying that I couldn’t write.
It is important to be honest when offering a critique but there is no need to rip someone to shreds. I also think when receiving a critique as a writer it is important to consider differing perspectives and take what you need from each one. You make a very good point about getting in with a group of readers who actually know what they’re talking about. A situation like that could make all the difference.
Selma, That’s why all my critiques are rewritten several times, and I reread the material at least three times so I know it well enough to make a critique. I did that before going to the conference, and I found that some people didn’t even take mine seriously enough to go through it enough to know what they were talking about. There was one girl that tried to rip me to shreds, but I was able to handle it with grace because I knew she hadn’t given it enough time – it was one of the last three in a week, and she didn’t want to do anymore. Rude? yeah – but at least I could smile and her and move on.
I’m so sorry about your former agent – I’m glad to here she’s a “former” one. No one needs that from someone that supposed to represent them – how in the world are you going to trust them again? I understand the whole, “want you to get better”, but there just has to be a better way!