I’m sure you’ve heard it a thousand times. Join a writing group, have critique partners. Well I’m here to tell you again. I can’t emphasize enough how important it is to have good critique partners, who are brutally honest (when they need to be).
While praise is (of course) good and appreciated, sometimes it’s not always for the best. For instance, when my friend Lindsay Cummings first read my book, she gushed. It was high praise from a published author, and I couldn’t have been more ecstatic.
But the problem is, when you think you’re good enough, you stop trying. You stop working for it, learning, trying to get better. And honestly, that’s what I did. I was lulled into a sense of security in my own awesomeness. Not to say I’m not awesome, but I was okay with good. I didn’t challenge myself. I didn’t say, okay, this is good, but what can make it better? I ignored the blatant flaws in my manuscript that I knew were there. Because if she thought it was agent-ready, those didn’t matter, right?
Now I love her to death and I’m not trying to give her a hard time (I’ll take all the compliments and praise I can get, haha) it did have an effect on me. I cannot emphasize enough how important it is to have good CPs. And by “good” I don’t mean people you enjoy talking to and who read your story and tell you nice things about it (though those are a plus).
Exhibit A: Stephanie (All my CP’s are fabulous, she’s just a good example 😉 ) She does tell me nice things about my story. We do enjoy spending time together (and she has amazing taste in music). But she’s also honest. She reads it objectively, and critiques everything from broad concepts to sentence structure and grammar.
Yes this is good, but how can we make it great? She is constantly challenging me and inspiring me to do better, to be better. Some of the things we come up with together are 10x better than anything I came up with on my own. Sometimes the gem is waiting there, just beneath the surface, but I’m so coddled in my security that I can’t see it. So she helps to chip away, and help me find those gems, and throw away the rest. (Go show her some love here)
All my life, I’ve been “a good writer”. It was as part of my identity as my age, school, or gender. This is Victoria, she’s a good writer. People read my stories, and loved them. They told me nice things about them. And I’ve learned and grown and developed on my own as a writer, of course, but now I can’t help but think how much more exponentially I would have grown if I’d had the resources then I have now.
I am so glad I have finally connected with the writing community. It’s a crazy great bunch of people. I have learned so much in these past couple months, more than an entire year of figuring things out on my own. If you’re reading this, you’re probably already involved with the writing community in some way, but I challenge you to surround yourself with people and writers who not only support you, but challenge you.
The results will be exponential.