After much fear and trembling, I’d joined a small critique group through ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers.) Pushing send on that first submission made me feel like I was walking the plank on a gigantic pirate ship, destined to plunge into the shark-filled waters, causing my poor words to be slashed and slaughtered.
What if they hated it? What if they came back and said it was the worst thing they’d ever read? Worse, yet, what if they said it was fabulous but silently snickered behind their cyber-mail back and plotted ways to kick my sorry rear-end out of the group?
But then a thought came to me. What if they really DID love it? What if my work was utter brilliance, and they begged me to critique their work because of what they felt they would glean from my writing prowess? (Think jumping off the plank only to be rescued by friendly dolphins who let me ride on their backs while those on the ship hoot, holler, and applaud!)
I’m sorry to report, the reality was somewhere in between, leaning toward option A.
The critiques I received back were a bloody mess. And I’m not swearing in a British accent there. Comments overwhelmed the pages, words were sliced everywhere, whole paragraphs were victims of the brutal attack.
At first, I was left numb. But as I read through the notes, the wheels in my head started to unthaw and turn. Their notes to a very novice writer started to make sense. Show, don’t tell. Don’t explain here. Explain this more. Adverbs in every sentence is not a fab idea. Adjectives after every noun doesn’t help the cause. Beats, not tags. The list of my faux pas goes on and on.
After a day of mourning, I got to work.
I’d love to tell you that I rewrote that chapter and it was perfect. No such luck. I’ve edited that chapter about 100 times since then, even getting more dripping red critiques.Much of my problem was that I was trying to put Barbie Band-aids on very large holes that really needed antiseptic ointment, gauze and an ace bandage, if not amputation all together.
Fast forward three years. My original manuscript is sitting, bandages still intact, in ICU.
A new baby was born a few years ago and survived the plank a little better. In September, I was tickled pink to sign my FIRST publishing contract. Sandwich, With a Side of Romance is set to release September 2012.
But very, very soon, my poor sandwich book will be dripping in blood again, but from a new source. A publishing house editor!
I’m getting ready to walk the plank again. On one hand, the safety of the boat sounds really nice. To live in my-book-is-wonderful land is tempting! But I’ve survived many massacres now, from critique groups, to rejections, to contest results. And I’ve learned that what doesn’t kill my book will make it better.
Discussion: For you unpubbed out there… who do YOU have to “bleed” your writing? Have you survived, or did the coroner have to get involved? For you pubbed among us… *gulp* does it hurt too badly???