“No one has ever committed suicide while reading a good book, but many have tried while trying to write one.”
- Robert Byrne
I’m on spring break this week, because it always falls the week of Patriot’s Day on April 19th, which commemorates the battles at Lexington and Concord beginning the American Revolution. To my British readers, I’m sorry that my city is obsessed with this silly ol’ war. What were we fighting about anyway? To my teacher readers, I’ll be subbing and sharing my torturous days next week. Stay tuned!
Even though it’s break, I don’t have the oodles of time to write and edit my work that I was hoping for, due to my children being home and having their friends visit. Besides, I can’t just ignore them, which means interacting with them and taking them places, like to the park. Even with these constraints, I’ve been semi-productive.
In my last post, I wrote about thinking I’d polished The Disappearances sufficiently, only to find out I was out of my mind. As I also mentioned, Mary at KidLit offered to have people comment on her post to find beta readers. I’ve gotten several e-mails regarding this, and officially swapped first chapters with my first victim yesterday. Then Aubrie was kind enough to look through the first two chapters and gave me helpful suggestions, but also made me relieved that my sentences. weren’t. as. stilted. as. I'd. feared.
So, what have I been doing, besides letting other people read my work? I’ve been reading their work. Jackee and I have been trading chapters since January, but that’s on my manuscript, Indigo in the Know. I read her chapters yesterday, along with my new connection from KidLit, Anita. Now I’m going through Aubrie’s pages. To look at three different manuscripts in one day was thrilling because I got to read three different writing styles and genres. I’m repeating myself, but it’s worth saying that reading other people’s work makes me a better writer. It’s just too bad I’ve temporarily abandoned Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater because I’m halfway through it.
Later in the day, I received an e-mail from someone who found me through NESCBWI (New England chapter of SCBWI) because I was on an “interested in a critique group” list. This woman’s group meets at a bookstore right in Cambridge once a week. How convenient!
When the dust from all of these requests settles, I’ll have to figure out whom I mesh with and what will work best for me. As much as I appreciated the group I joined in January, their genres were too different from mine and they met too infrequently for me to make the progress I’m seeking.
Trusting my baby in other people’s hands is a big leap, so I need to trust them and respect their feedback. And while my manuscript feels like a baby, I need to take critique like a MAN.
For those of you considering a beta reader, exchange partner, or group, here are some helpful resources: (Note that they’re all within this last week, so critique seems to be on many writers’ minds.)
After Mary Kole set up the comments list, she wrote a second post giving advice about being good critique partner:
Jody, who has a book, The Preacher’s Bride coming out this fall, gives suggestions on how to handle critique and tells us how important our first ten pages really are:
Tawna has a list on the different stages of handling critique, which sounds suspiciously similar to the different stages of grief:
Even though I feel like I have many critique options right now, and can’t possibly do them all, especially if I want to accomplish anything on my own writing, I’m moving forward.