Saturday, February 23, 2013

Notes from my Savvy Author's chat - Part Two

It's difficult when you are starting out to find those people who can give you the right guidance and insights into being a writer.There's this belief that you need to "know" someone in order to get published. Well, you do need to know people--other beginning writers who are at your level, in additional to Gurus, Teachers and Mentors (I think of them as guardian angels). Also, there are organizations set up to help the novice.

My group is made up of speculative fiction writers; your group might be romance writers. Depending on your focus there is a group to fit you, or you can build one yourself.

Going back to my Facebook associate, social media helped him be better informed about publishing. It's amazing how easy it is to get in touch with a famous author or editor, or even publisher. They are out there ready to mingle, so the temptation to ask them to read your work is always there. However, in general, professional writers are too busy to help out the beginning writer. For editors and publishers to see your work guidelines are set up on websites. Going to a workshop or conference also gets your work seen. Those are the proper ways to go about getting your work in front of pros.

In 2009, a famous screenwriter created quite a stir with an article about how he refuses to read screenplays from friends and acquaintances. No man is an island and this writer had been cornered by a relative's boyfriend to give feedback on a poorly done script treatment.I heard about this article through a big name author whose blog I followed, and it seemed that she and almost everyone she knew had suffered from being asked to read a budding writer's work.

The upshot of the article was that a big name writer won't ask you to fix a faucet or do taxes for free, so why does the beginning writer feel entitled to ask for writing help or feedback from pros gratis?

Why isn't it a good idea for friends and family to be your first readers?

When you've finished that first short story or novel, there's a surge of pride and accomplishment. "Hey, I'm an author!" However a steep the learning curve between first draft and publishable piece means a hundred little rules and by-laws of style that you wouldn't know if they bit you on the butt. If you are sincere about writing, there will be that first professional level crit that leaves the taste of ashes in your mouth.

How you handle criticism will directly affect how many people are willing to work with you. If your grammar is off, there may be someone who has strong grammar skills who will help you, but not if you throw a snit when you are told to fix various items in your writing.

The proper response to criticism is, "Thank you." You can add, "I really appreciate your doing this for me. This will help in doing re-writes." It doesn't matter if a small voice in you is screaming, "This guy's a jerk." Be gracious and profoundly grateful. Unless you are paying for editorial work, this person just gave you a gift of their opinion and time.

I came to writing after 20 years in theatre. In theatre, there's a lot of ego; however, there's little room for someone who can't take criticism. By the time I took my first writing class, I knew how to swallow panic and pain, smile and listen to criticism, and say thank you. I also could put together a grammatically correct sentence (but not much more). I was invited to a twice monthly writing workshop made up from students in that class. It was a huge help in my development as a writer. And people appreciated what I could bring to the table as a crit partner.


  1. This may be my favourite post on why it's important to join a writing group. And I'm IN a writing group.

    Your section on "how to handle criticism" should be given to every writer on a post card.

    I also loved the section on the audacity of attacking a well-known writer with an unfinished work. It is complete arrogance and self-sabotaging.

  2. I agree with you and I'm glad to hear of your being in a group. It's so very important to one's growth as a writer. Thanks for the kind words and leaving a comment.