Today I Turn the Blog Over to Author Sandy James
Sandy is my critique partner and my inspiration. Her “Damaged Heroes” series and rom-com novel Turning Thirty-Twelve are published by BookStrand. The newest Damaged Heroes book, Twist of Fate, a time-travel romance, debuted October 25. Her novel, Rules of the Game, is coming from Carina Press in April 2012. Find Sandy online at www.sandy-james.com. Today, she talks about the importance of having someone else read your work. Take it away, Partner…
I always remember what agony it was as a child to have my father tell me his “stories.” You know the ones I’m talking about… They usually began with In my day or When I was a kid. Those kinds of stories. I usually hunkered down to wait out the storm because nothing in my life could ever be as bad as my father’s childhood growing up during the Great Depression. Whatever it was I needed—money for a field trip, a new pair of jeans—I might as well have been begging for a fortune. I always joke with my history classes that my father would squeeze a penny until Lincoln cried.
Funny, but now that I’ve been writing for a while and have started mentoring new writers, I’m sounding a lot like my dad. Back when I started writing…
When I tell stories like that, I’m hoping to spare some newbie author the same agony I went through when I began this process. Since this is one of those stories, just do what I did when I was a kid and dad started in. Pretend to listen. <g>
Back when I started writing, I didn’t realize the value of letting other people read my work. Oh, I had such aspirations! That first book was clearly a masterpiece. It would be snapped up by the first publisher. It would have a Fabio cover. It would quickly rise to the top of the New York Times Bestseller list. After all, I’d just written a novel, something so few people do. Right?
Ha ha ha ha…snort.
Sorry. Have to stop laughing for a moment. I have a hard time believing I was ever that naïve. But I was. Most newbies are. At least I had the sense to ask for help.
My father-in-law is a writer. He was thrilled I was writing since none of his children were writers. It gave us common ground, and when I finished that first “masterpiece,” I printed it out, shoved it in a binder, and begged him to read it. Poor man—imagine having your daughter-in-law pleading with you to read her first book. A romance novel, no less. But God bless him, he did. Then he did me the biggest favor anyone has ever done in my writing career.
He critiqued it.
I imagine he went through at least three red pens making comments. Oh yes, it was THAT bad. I forced myself to absorb every comment, every suggestion, despite the fact that I could sometimes only look at a page or two before tears would cloud my vision. After so many rewrites that I lost count, I’m proud to say that book—Twist of Fate—was released by BookStrand in October.
There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t thank him for that help. He not only taught me more about writing than I ever imagined, he also taught me another more valuable lesson. You have to share you work. You have to get feedback. If you don’t, you’ll never improve.
I’ve been blessed with great critique partners. Right now, I critique with Nan and author Cheryl Brooks. I couldn’t survive this business without their help.
Nan and I exchange several chapters a week. She’s been wonderful with telling me when things are “wrong.” It took her a while to get to that point. Not because I’m a fantastic writer whose work was beyond reproach. (Sorry, dissolved into another laughing fit there…) But she was hesitant to tell me about things that could improve because I was published and she wasn’t. After quite a bit of encouragement and scolding, I finally convinced her that EVERY author needs critiquing. Another set of eyes can catch things that ever the best writer might miss. Character inconsistencies. Missteps in plot. Crafting a heroine too-stupid-to-live.
Now that she’s my critique partner, I’m never going to let her go. Not only does she spot all sorts of things I do wrong—and trust me, there are plenty to keep her on her toes—but I get to read her work. You’re all in for some fantastic stories once she’s published!
So…thanks, Nan. Don’t know what I’d do without you.
You’re welcome, Sandy…back atcha!
Inspiration? Oh, Nan. You are FAR too kind. But thank you.
I love the “No, no, no” comment, Robena! That is what my first critique partner would always say too! 😀
This is so true. I’m a sensitive soul. I couldn’t take the early critiques without falling apart and losing valuable writing days while I drank wine and ate chocolate. I gave up allowing anyone to look at my work.
Years later, I entered a contest or two and gradually became braver. Then I met Jenny Crusie. I joined her forums. For several years I’d ask questions even if I sounded stupid, and she’d smooth things over. Sometimes she’d just say, “No. No No.” Ha ha.
I finally hooked up with one of my old crit partners two years ago, and we trust each other to be honest. We exchange chapters weekly. We do a straight through read when the ms. is finished. We send to three beta readers. I can see the difference. Whether or not I’m any closer to being published, I don’t know. But I do know my writing is better for the input of other readers.
Sorry this is so long. : )