Wednesday, November 9, 2011

They're Talking About You (and Me)

When I first began my journey of writing and publishing my book, I read quite a few blogs, articles and books on the process.  They all had a few things in common:  the authors said that no manuscript is ready for review as soon as it is written.  They suggested multiple edits, critiques and revisions.  They talked about the process being long and difficult.  They reminded us that very few writers become published, and out of those, even fewer experience success with their work.

I read those words, and although I wouldn't have admitted it at the time, deep inside I was thinking, "That doesn't apply to me. I edit as I write.  My manuscript is perfect as it is written."  I loved my story so much that I couldn't imagine changing even one word.

Three years later, I can only look back and laugh.  My book has grown and evolved so much from that first version, and while there is part of me that mourns what was, I understand that its present form is better. . and I recognize that there is always room for improvement. 

As writers, we so identify with our work that it can be tough to recognize what that work needs.  And after we've poured our blood, sweat and tears into months or years of tender care, hearing that it's still not quite good enough is extremely painful. . so we decide that that advice isn't meant for us.

Guess what?  It is.  There is no writer or written work so perfect that it cannot be improved.  There is no story so complete that it cannot be tweaked.  When those in the know give advice. . they're talking about you.  And me, as it turns out.

As I've mentioned, I work with a terrific group of writers who support each other, offer encouragement and perform monthly critiques on each others' work.  Our core group has learned through trial and error what the others want to hear, how tough we can be, and where we need to pull back.  More than once, we've had authors join us and leave after a single critique cycle.  A few have told me that they didn't expect the level of criticism they received; they came to the group looking only for accolades, not for constructive help. 

I get that.  Hey, I'd love it if every month, my fellow writers told me that the chapter I submitted was so perfect that they couldn't suggest changing one iota.  Well, I'd love it if it were true.  But I am happier that they instead tell me the truth:  they point out a redundant word, question the actions of a character, ask me about motivation or continuity.  Pats on the back are nice, but they aren't going to help me in the long run.

If you're just beginning the road to writing book, don't be discouraged by those in the know.  But don't think you're the exception to the rule.  Know that even authors who routinely see their books on the New York Times best-sellers list admit that their work could have been improved. So can yours, and so can mine.

We writers are a fragile bunch, but we need thick skins to be out there in the world.  So pull up your big girl panties and get on with it.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

It's the Reading, Stupid!

Remember back in the 90's, when Bill Clinton was running for president, and the catchphrase became "It's the economy, stupid!" as a way to sum up the most important issue in the nation?  Well, this came to mind recently while I was reading my Nook and thinking about the sweeping changes in the world of publishing.  Everyone is talking about how bookstore closings, skyrocketing e-publishing figures and the decline of the printed word is affecting literature.  Within my own home there are factions:  two daughters who are fiercely clinging to traditional books and refusing to read e-books, and one daughter, one son-in-law and one husband (plus me!) who own e-readers and enjoy the easy access to our favorite books.

But in the midst of all of this posturing, let's not forget the point:  it's the reading, stupid.

Right now I'm enjoying the first book in Nora Roberts' latest trilogy on my Nook.  I loved the fact that I could download this book at midnight on November 1st; I didn't have to go to the bookstore, wait for a package to arrive or be the first one at the library when it opened that morning.  The book was there, waiting for me to enjoy it.

The fact that I am reading it in a non-print format doesn't remove any of the romance, mystery or magic from the book.

We can argue all day long about quality, paper versus download, but when it comes down to it, e-books have as much potential as traditional books. Yes, there is a lot of garbage still being "published" as electronic books, but there are also some really poor work out there in print, as well.

I am concentrating on publishing my first book electronically by the end of the year, but it doesn't mean that I have eschewed traditional publishing.  If the opportunity, I would love to see my work in print, on a page made of paper.

But it's more important to me to get my 'baby' out there, no matter how it's done.  I want other people to read it. 

Because after all, it's the reading, stupid.