Just admit it already.
You need it.
Don’t feel ashamed. Everyone needs it.
No matter what you create in whichever form, we all need a second pair of eyes and a fresh perspective on our WIP. (work in progress for those afraid of acronyms) Even best-selling authors and screen writers need it, and we all know when they don’t get it. Quality feedback is essential to growing our art. Of course, pushing ourselves out there, placing our creative baby in front of the what sometimes feels like a firing squad, takes cajones.
After completing the first draft of my manuscript, Book Burning, I asked my mother to read it to ascertain if it was a load of crap or not. Despite a mother’s penchant to support all her child’s endeavors, I trusted my mother to be honest. I write paranormal fantasy, something she never ever reads, so I figured that if the story and main character snagged her despite the fact that mobster werewolves were gunning for rogue vampires, then I might be on to something. She liked it. In fact, it kept her tossing and turning at night worrying about Soledad’s precarious situation. I took that as a huge compliment. (I’ll post an introduction to Sole here in a couple days.)
Next came my friend, Mady, also not a paranormal/fantasy reader. With her compliments and suggestions ringing in my ears and appearing on my pages, I took the next big step and asked a writer (heart palpitations!) to read it. Each time I passed on a copy of my manuscript I fought away fears and a plague of anxieties. But if I had never put it out there, I’d still be running around with an untold story in my head. (read, completely nutso) At the end of the year almost everyone in my immediate family had read it and several of my neighbors. The gentle criticism of my fellow writer was helpful, but I needed more. I needed a critique group, a group of writers that shared my vision of getting published.
I consider myself lucky to have found some great critique groups. That’s not to say that I haven’t ever been on the receiving end of a bad critique. And by that, I mean that someone offered criticism without thought. That, my friends, is one of my pet peeves in life. If you’re going to pick apart my work, then do it after reading the complete submission. Also, give it some thought, dammit. I know it’s not perfect which is why I sought a critique group in the first place. Don’t tell me I have “paragraph problems” without giving me an example. In return, I’ll read your piece when the time comes and offer specific suggestions as well. See, give and take and all those good things.
So what kinds of questions should you be asking yourself regarding the piece of writing you’re reading? Connie Jasperson recently posted the questions she likes her beta-readers to answer when reviewing one of her WIPs. She writes fantasy, but I think her questions apply to different genres as well. Remember, if you want quality feedback of your work, you have to be willing to give it.