There’s this false sense of security that lulls a would-be writer when she posts her work on a site like Wattpad and read all the praise pouring in. One writer friend told me that it was “instant gratification” to read all those comments as soon as you click ‘Publish’ and that it was addicting. It makes you want to keep on writing not really for the sake of writing to perfect your craft, but to keep hearing that praise pouring in.
Problem is – the praise isn’t from your peers, fellow writers or editors who know the essentials of a good story.
And so after almost 4 months of writing and now currently rewriting my novel, I decided to send the first 2500 words to an editor and author – just me being the type of girl who ‘runs with scissors and never thinks before she says something.’ The woman’s well-respected in the business and people actually were proud to have “bricks flung” at them (in the form of critiques, of course) and admitted that while the critique was harsh and took months to receive, it was what their novels really needed. No false sense of security there.
I didn’t know what to expect really. What I did know, the moment I clicked Send, was that my first chapter was the weakest of all 46 chapters in the 140K word novel. But maybe I needed the validation. Maybe I needed a brick or two flung at me after all the praise I’d been hearing from readers via comments and private messages. Or maybe I just needed a professional editor to look at it and tell me it was crap so I’d know what to do to make it not so much like crap.
Three hours later, I got my reply. As I read her email, she first told me that she wasn’t flinging bricks at me – yet. She also told me what I already knew about that first chapter.
Unfortunately I had mis-identified the genre I was writing by putting down ROMANCE instead of WOMEN’S LIT. So her critique had more to do with the romance genre, one of which included the advice to read a 100 books for every one book I wanted to write, or read a How To Write a Romance Novel type of book – that is, IF I was writing a romance.
“If this is “women’s fiction” rather than “romance” … then this is fine, but it’s still riddled with the telling, not showing problems.
“Decide if your book is a romance or women’s fiction, then start it at the latest point possible when something more interesting is going on for the [protagonist] than being in the throes of grief for her friend. I question even using that as a plot device.”
This critique was definitely what I needed to know just how weak my first chapter was. It also told me that I had a long way to go. I have heard of people writing novels in 3 to 4 months, then have it published by the 5th month. Is it polished? I don’t know, though sometimes I buy then and wonder I wasted my money. But I shouldn’t be worrying about those authors, that they’re published and I’m not. I should worry about me, and the type of work I want to produce.
I need to move that story forward, find my voice in women’s lit (the genre I prefer most to read) and keep on editing till I know that that first chapter is the best I can send out. Then, and only then – after she asks me to send the full manuscript – do I wait for the bricks to be flung my way…