If reading is a collective action, writing is a solitary art. There is no one with which an author can share responsibility or blame for the words they put to paper. Just as it is only their soul laid bare to anyone who might potentially pick up their novel and read it. The pain and the pleasure of creation begins and ends with them.
But at some point, an artist must declare their brainchild finished and prepare to disseminate it to the wider world. To do so, they must first rely upon the opinions of their peers to give them an accurate, although subjective, view of their manuscript. The author must let go and open up to criticism.
For many years, I wrote solo. Every word groaned under the weight of its own self importance. I revised. I edited until my soul bled. Then, finally, I typed the words THE END, and broke out in a cold sweat. If I was truly serious about publishing my novel, it was time to find someone to critique my work.
Three years ago this month, I joined the Novelists critique group (out of which this blog was born), and my writing was transformed. Sure, my novel became a marketable piece of fiction--that was my goal, after all--but I count the changes to my style, voice, and level of confidence as the most valuable gifts this group of talented writers imparted.
Today, when I compose a scene, I hear their voices reminding me to stay tight in my character's point of view, to watch wordy dialogue beats, and to slash every unnecessary word. I am reminded of how lucky I am to have found this group and just how amazing they are.
Every writer is different, of course. There are plenty of successful novelists out there who choose to forgo the critical route. I imagine there are also critique groups who have steered potential writers away from a marketable manuscript. As for me, I count my group as a bit of serendipity. Now it is my turn to pay it forward.
How about you?
I strongly encourage all writers to find a critique partner or group. This can be done locally, through a professional group or organization such as your local chapter of Romance Writers of America, Daughters In Crime, or Mystery Writers of America, or via the Internet (there are many online critique groups out there that might fit your needs). Prepare to put your self out there. You won't regret it.
Good Luck and Happy Writing,