When I first began this writing gig, I wanted to share my work with everyone, kind of like a proud parent showing off their exceptional child. It never occurred to me that it wasn’t really ready for prime time, as they say.
The worst part was when people would point out flaws—it felt like knives cutting out my heart.
I was seeking validation that my work was good – and therefore I was good – not an honest opinion that it had promise but needed work.
Then, something occurred that showed me that my expectations were skewed: my first experience with a real editor.
That ordeal was when I truly saw my work through unbiased eyes.
My manuscript came back to me looking like a sea of red. Even though I had gone over it several times, my manuscript was rife with lazy writing habits.
- Dropped and missing words.
- Closed quotes sometimes missing at the beginning or end of dialogue.
- Erratic spelling of made-up words
- Random capitalization of made-up words
- Lack of knowledge of grammar
- Repetition of crutch words
- Repetition of ideas
- Too many descriptors
- Too many quantifiers
- Too much background
- Awkward phrasing
- Passive phrasing
- Too many hyphenated words
- Relying on clichés rather than creativity
- Using too many words to say simple things
- Using “thoughts” to dump info
- Using dreams to dump info
- Using flashbacks to dump info
The list of writing “wrongs” that were so carefully instilled into that manuscript went on…and on….
When I got that manuscript back, my initial gut reaction was outrage. Naively, I had expected a few comments about commas or something.
On the heels of outrage came depression. When I really looked at the first chapter, I discovered that I was a hopeless, no-talent hack. How could I have missed so many stupid mistakes? I must be the worst, the most ignorant fool out there.
After I survived the self-pity stage, I pulled up my socks, put my big girl pants on, and made it my business to make the revisions as my editor had suggested.
We grow as writers, not from mindless, sycophantic validation of our personal worthiness, but from mindful, honest critiques of our work.
My passion for writing craft evolved out of a desire to make my next book better. And with each book, I have gained in craft, and I have learned to love the experience of having an editor who is looking out for me and doing her best to make sure my work is enjoyable.
If you are new in the craft and you blithely hand your work to an experienced reader, don’t be shocked if they point out things you don’t want to hear.
This is where you must make a choice. You can write just for yourself, which is perfectly fine, and many people fall into that category. Or, you can purchase books on writing craft, attend seminars, and learn everything you can about how to make your talent readable.
Many people are not comfortable in groups, preferring a one-on-one discussion of strengths and weaknesses. If you want to know what the weaknesses are in your manuscript, but don’t want to be involved in a writing group, hire an editor. Learn to love the process of making revisions. She/he will do their best to help you realize your vision of what that novel can be.
If what you are really seeking is validation that you are worthy, don’t show that manuscript to anyone. Instead, volunteer in your community and through helping others, you will find the validation you seek.