I’ve done it for sure. I’ve edited and tightened my manuscript until it shines. It has been lovingly and carefully submitted to the three agents I most wanted to work with. Unfortunately, all I have to show for it right now are saved emails with excellent advice and praise…but no contract. And it’s no one’s fault but my own.
I am disappointed in myself because I should have taken one major step (that I honestly thought I’d taken, but I’ll get to that later) that might have gotten me a yes from one of my desired agents, instead of the wonderful compliments and advice. I should have found a true critique partner.
I should have looked for someone within my genre of Adult, Christian Historical Fiction, focusing on someone looking for big-picture problems, not necessarily the nuances of writing. I should have found someone who reads books similar to the ones I love and has a tendency to cry at the turn of a beautifully written phrase. I should have found someone willing to be as honest as an agent. But I didn’t.
I did ask for beta readers and a few of those who offered to do it, actually did. Some even came back with very valuable advice. So, you see, I thought my bases were covered. I thought I had done what was required before sending out my queries.
I have looked at various CP (critique partner) sites, tried to create my own group, contacted authors, and asked writing friends, none of my searching panned out.
One of the pieces of advice I’ve learned is to use your network. So I decided to think outside the writing box. In one case, a friend of mine from a non-writing circle used to work in the industry. She was a re-writer/editor for a best-selling book and worked as a book doctor for a number of years. Sending my work to her was a study in nail-biting. Though she is a friend, I knew she would be honest with me, and she was. In another case, I sent my novella to a small group of fellow writers’ from NaNoWriMo, they showed me weak points in the plot and scene structure. After I did these, my prayer for a CP was finally answered. I was contacted by a friend to join a small crit group. I’m excited to get started with it.
Seeing your work come back covered in red with lots of notes on the side is intimidating. However, USING those her notes, turning her suggestions into my own writing, was exhilarating. Changing and rearranging words, phrases, and sentences to make the beats stronger and improve understanding and pace gave me ah-ha moments that I desperately needed. Moving sentences from the middle of a paragraph to the first so they have the most impact made me realize how weak some of my paragraphs were. This is where the rubber hits the road with writing. Can you admit when a suggestion helps with clarity, or do you shy away from criticism?
I’ve known from the start that I was new to this and I’ve become quite good at being a sponge. Even after three years of editing and a little over a year of “real” writing, I still consider myself new. These are the things I’m sharing here in my blog, both so that I remember them and so you can see them before you have to go through it. Rare is the writer, it seems, who doesn’t have to go through something themselves to really grasp it. We seem to be a lot who enjoys throwing suffering on our shoulders.
Do you have a critique partner or group? Where did you find them and do you find them invaluable?