Thursday, September 16, 2010


Do writers get discouraged? You betcha. The need to write comes with a deep need for approval. I suppose that's true with plumbers or electricians or any profession, but practitioners of the arts seem to require more "ointment of appreciation" than do most. Yep! I'm guilty. I sometimes allow friends to read my work for the sole purpose of having someone, anyone, say, "Hey, you're pretty good at this."

One of the greatest compliments I ever received came from my sainted mother. After reading one of my partial manuscripts, she said, "It's like it was written by a real author." From some perspectives, a comment like that might be vaguely insulting; however, to hear it from one of my hardest critics? Well, I'll remember that moment for a long time. Compliments are part of the salve required to soothe the nerves of a would-be author, but there are more important things.

Constructive criticism from people the writer respects is like gold in the pocket. One of my betas (people who read and suggest revision to manuscripts) is tough, really tough. She doesn't sugarcoat anything. She doesn't pick and choose words to avoid wounded egos or injured psyches. She, to coin a tried yet true phrase, "tells it like it is." If a piece has problems, she's quick to point them out without the encumbrance of euphemistic terminology. "This sucks" are words she might use or perhaps, "I stopped reading here because it was terrible and I couldn't force myself to go on." Hard to hear? Again, yes, but each time I drag my deflated ego to the keyboard after one of her betas, my work gets better, so much so that even I can see the difference.

Difference. Improvement. Polish. These are all words that go toward publication. My few and far between moments of publication are partly due to the fact that I submit very little work to potential publishers, but without voracious betas, even those few moments would be non-existant. In very short order, I'll be sending part one of my two part series off to be beta-ed, and I'm hoping to recieve the hard-hitting, ego-splitting responses that usually come my way. Discouraging? Sometimes more so than others. Helpful? More often than not, and help is what every would-be writer needs. Criticism works toward strenghtening any piece of writing as long as the author learns the value of that criticism. The publishing climate is always stormy and the stronger the manuscript the easier it is for the good ship "Get-Me-An-Agent" to find safe harbor.

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