I’m back writing the rest of The Revolutionary Tapestry having had some interest from agents. For someone who is new to writing this is enormously encouraging as it shows I have good ideas and some ability even if I need to work hard to get it to the next level.
Sending stuff out is scary. Even letting friends see it is an anxious experience. Everybody has that little voice in their head that says they are an imposter and someone will find them out. Writing is always an expression and extension of your personality to a greater or lesser extent and sharing it is an invitation to judge not only your words, but you. I should be used to it, having been both a journalist and a music performer, but in both those cases the feedback is quick and can be quickly forgotten. It’s only if you consistently get criticism or bad crowds that you start to take it really to heart. A novel or even a short story takes more sustained effort and is more personal than a quick bit of factual copy or a three minute song.
My first reader is, of course, my wife Jules. When she first started reading and commenting on my stuff it was hard to take. Overall she has always been positive and her critique is always valid and I have learned a lot from it. There is still the stray thought however that this is someone who loves you so should only say nice things. What I quickly realised is that (a) she was right in questioning the things she did and changing them would make the story stronger and (b) as a parent you should never shrink from being honest with your children so as a writer you should expect the same from your readers. It’s like the people who go on X Factor and react to criticism from Simon Cowell by saying he isn’t a singer. He is something more relevant – a consumer.
My other readers have been similar enthusiastic and positively critical – the story is good, there is good writing there, but there are also things that could be improved. As they are either writers or experts in aspects of the story, this is very heartening and only a fool would ignore their points. I know what I wanted to say and what the characters are thinking and doing, but if that doesn’t come across to the reader it is useless. And I have occasionally also suffered from making the characters say or do things that are out of character because I needed it to happen, so finding that out is invaluable.
The key lesson, I suppose, is that if people say something is not right, it doesn’t mean you aren’t a good writer. Just that you have made a mistake, and pointing out a mistake is not an attack on your personality or talents.
So, onto the next 100,000 words and some more good readers.