I already had this thought bouncing in my head when I logged on this morning. It’s why I logged on to make a post. Before I wrote it down, though, I had to go peek at the headlines of the other blogs I follow, and thought it was funny that Time of Nervous Waiting was sitting out there approaching this from a very different perspective. It’s not really a parallel, more like a perpendicular. (And that, folks, is about all the geometry I know).
Anyway…as I started writing this, I realized it needed to be two posts – one rife with opinion, and the other more advice-based. This is the advice half – you’ll need to hop over to my personal blog to read the opinion half.
When I first get a story idea – when it’s bouncing around in my skull and begging to be listened to – it’s in the format I want it to be in. It’s the story I want to hear, and it’s got the characters I want it to have. Frequently it even makes it into first draft form that way. And if I was only writing for me, it would stay that way forever. To say that I dislike revising my work would be a gross understatement.
But I’m not just writing it for me. I want other people to see my work. I want it to speak to them the way the original idea spoke to me, and I want to evoke emotions and build worlds that allow them to escape, even if it’s only for a little while. That, and I love the rush that comes from seeing my name in print.
That means during the revision process, I have to make changes and tweaks so the story appeals to other readers. I have to clarify things that make sense to me only because it’s my world. I have to edit, refine, define characters, and pour depth into the original thought. I don’t think like other people – everyone thinks differently, I’m not unique in that regard – so that means I need help figuring out what components are missing, convoluted, unneeded, you get the point.
If you’ve ever heard that you should have people read your work and give their opinions before you submit it, it’s true. That’s not advice you can ignore. I envy those writers who have a wide enough circle of friends that they can get honest feedback from people they know in real life. That doesn’t mean mom tells you it’s wonderful and gives you another piece of apple pie. It means George in accounting spends the bus ride home pouring over your words and then says, “Why did your protagonist jump? Where’s the passion in your relationship? And by the way, I absolutely loved your spy agency; it was so real to me.”
Even though George in accounting doesn’t care one way or the other for my angels, I’m fortunate enough to belong to two online critique groups that do exactly that for me. I don’t always agree with their opinions, but I wouldn’t be what I am today without them. Two and a half years ago when I first ‘met’ some of them, I thought my work was ready to go to press tomorrow. Yeah…it wasn’t. I would have gone through rounds and rounds of rejections from publishers and agents and never known why if I hadn’t learned to listen to them, and trust my own instinct about which advice to take and when.
I guess the point is – even if you’re the next George Orwell, William Shakespeare, or Danielle Steele – don’t believe it until you can find opinions you trust to confirm it. It may take some digging, but there are people out there who want to read and give advice on what you’ve written. If there weren’t, you wouldn’t have a market for your story, right? After all, that first draft is for you, the final draft is for everyone else.
Where do you go for opinions, reviews, and critique of your writing?