Trust in Your Work
The novel is written. It’s a first draft, a bit rough but it has been completed. You’re excited to have someone read it, to see the greatness you have created on the pages contained within. Maybe you’ll give it a once over, to straighten out any obvious flaws but you’re anxious to get someone’s opinion on your novel. Anxious and nervous.
When the time comes, you find you’re a bit apprehensive about turning over your work to someone. Not sure about you, but I have a lot of personal information that I lace throughout my novels. Things no one else would know are personal to me but they are everywhere within these novels. Now, some of my family and even close friends might notice a few details in the story that is part of my real life but once the general population reads the book, they’ll never know.
The ones you are asking to read and critique your work are usually friends and close acquaintances, people you know pretty well. You start wondering, are they gonna know that detail in chapter 12 is something that happened to me in my life? What if my writing is not particularly good? What if (insert your friend’s name) thinks it stinks? Will he/she tell me or will he/she lie to save my feelings? Probably the latter. If so, that’s not going to help me in the least.
You get the idea. Many, many thoughts can start running through your mind about your work. Insecurities might rear their head and you start wondering if it is good enough for your friends to judge. Then again, you might be one of those confident people that don’t worry about such trivial things. If so, good for you. I did not have much of those thoughts until after I gave my book to the first two people to read. Once they had it in their hands (on their computer), some of those thoughts came flooding in. But I let them go and because I liked the story and felt it was well written, compelling and had a good flow, I did not let it bother me. Could have been false confidence but I think it opened me up for whatever feedback I got from my test readers. I was in sales and was also an actor for years so I’m used to rejection!
I was excited and would ask (sometimes daily) if they had been reading and what they thought as they made their way through the book. The feedback was mostly positive, with some great constructive feedback. As I mentioned in another post, I had one reader find a plot hole in my first book no one else had caught. I took all of the feedback, good & bad, to heart in a positive way, knowing it was only given to help make my story stronger. And it did.
One of my dedicated readers of all of my novels confessed to me by the third book that she was incredibly nervous with the first book of mine I had given her to read. In talking with her, I found out she was a lifelong reader of novels, loving a good fiction book. She was my perfect person to beta read and I asked her if she would be interested in reading my book. She said yes and I sent it to her. The fear she had was what if she did not like the book or found the writing to be plain bad? How would she tell me the truth? I asked her to be truthful. It’s one of the rules I lay down to anyone who reads any of my novels. I ask for feedback on story flow, character development, storyline, draw factor and if they purchased the book, would they have been happy with their purchase.
I ask each reader for complete honesty, letting them know they will not hurt my feelings. Honest feedback is most important for me to be able to create the strongest, best story I can put out there. If something is not right, I need to know so I can fix the problem before I send my book to an agent for representation because they would certainly catch the issue should they read the manuscript (a feat in itself!). I feel the same confidence when I send my story to the agents I have sent it to, that it is a good, solid, exciting story. I know it and hope one of them will figure it out as well!
The bottom line is to be confident about your work. Anyone who is a writer is more than likely a reader. If you’re a reader, you also know what holds your attention and compels you to want to get back to reading a really good book. Emulate that, understand the structure, the flow, the magic that pulls you into that story, and do everything you can to recreate that formula for your own story. Reread your work over and over. If it doesn’t grab you, rework it until you feel it gives you that chill or yearning to know what will happen next.
I believe most, if not all artists, doubt their work in some way, at least their initials work(s). Lack of confidence has been evident to me with people I know that paint, write, draw, or create music. You never know how the people who hear, read, or look at your work will react or if they will love it like you really hope they will. At least most of us hope others will enjoy our work. Most artists put their heart and soul into their work. To have it accepted and liked or loved by others gives a sense of satisfaction and a bit of confidence that maybe you are on the right track.
Get feedback but have thick skin to be able to take criticism because none of these works is perfect out of the gate. You should embrace the criticism so you can make the proper adjustments for a stronger story. Stay excited about the process because with each pass of the book you make, with each constructive piece of advice, your story is only getting stronger and better. If that is not exciting enough, maybe put that story aside and work on another. You need to feel that excitement and passion about your work, to believe in it more than anyone else. If you don’t believe in it, how can you expect others to believe in it?
Happy reading, happy writing!