There are times when we all need help. Seeing our own work as others see it is extremely difficult. We spend countless hours crafting our characters, plot lines and twist, shaping and reshaping our story until we’re happy with it. We set it aside for weeks, sometimes months, in the hopes of coming back with clear eyes. And sometimes when we come back we still can’t see our stories like someone would reading it for the first time.
|Mistress of Lies|
I struggled with this very thing a couple of weeks ago.
My protagonist is a wise-cracking, hardened, foul-mouthed thief whom I love. But in order for my readers to love her too I needed to make sure they could relate to her in some way, or at the very least like her. When you’re dealing with a character who’s on the wrong side of the law this isn’t always easy to pull off. In fact, it’s downright difficult.
|Swann's Lake of Despair|
So I turned to this group of talented authors on Prose & Cons-- one of the benefits of blogging with them-- and sent out a group-wide email asking if anyone would be willing to read the first ten pages of my manuscript and tell me if they could relate and/or if they liked my main character. Mind you, I wasn’t very optimistic. After all, these authors are extremely busy people with their own lives and work to worry about.
The response was overwhelming.
Within minutes I was bombarded with emails telling me they’d be happy to read for me. I was blown away. Not only was my manuscript’s initial pages-- the most crucial pages-- going to get a once-over, but by expert eyes.
|Words That Bind|
After five or ten minutes I had to send another email telling them that I was all set, because they kept coming and coming and coming. This is how great this group is. Now I’m sure they’ll tell you they were just lending a hand, no big deal. But it was a big deal. And I knew it.
|Ocean Of Fear|
I won’t mention which ones responded and which ones didn’t, because that isn’t relevant here. The point is everyone would have if I hadn’t shut them down. I truly believe that.
I’m telling you this because it’s important that we writers don’t lock ourselves away and not ask for help when we need it. Don’t work in a vacuum. This business can be lonely enough without making it any worse. In my opinion, and the opinion of many highly successful authors, you should at least have writer friends, groups, beta readers and/or critique partners to turn to after your manuscript is complete, or when you hit an especially difficult scene that you don’t know is working. Because no matter how good you think you are I guarantee you’ve missed something. We’re human. Humans make mistakes, pure and simple.
I’ve been burned by beta-readers in the past which made me very leery to go down that road again. But I’m smart enough to know that I couldn’t go it alone, either. This put me in a tough position. Do I write in a bubble and hope I’ve caught everything, or do I reach out again? You already know what I did. But I haven’t told you the best part. By doing this, by telling everyone that I needed help, I found a permanent critique partner. The lovely, talented, brilliant Susan Clayton-Goldner graciously offered-- and I jumped at the chance to work with her.
|A Question of Morality|
Now let me brag about my partner for a minute. Susan has a fantastic story that I can’t talk about in detail yet. When it comes out, however, you’ll be the first to know. Let me just say, it’s an amazing, heart-wrenching, gripping, suspenseful and sometimes funny family drama that will keep you flipping the pages to find out what happens next. What a beautiful writer she is. Wow, that’s what I said when I finished reading her manuscript. Wow!
|The Quinoa Cookbook|
So this is my “Thank YOU!” to all that read over my initial pages and offered their sound advice. I will forever be in your debt. And to my new critique partner, Susan, I love working with you! You’ve become an integral part of my writing process. I could never have enhanced my story without you. Thank you! *tips hat and bows*
To show my appreciation I am writing this post. You’ll notice book covers along the way. These are some, but not all, of the authors’ novels who helped me. Please show your support by clicking the captioned title of the ones that interest you and buying their books.
|The African Contract|
For those of you who are struggling to go it alone-- reach out, ask for help. I promise it will be the best thing you’ve ever done.
Do you use writing groups, beta readers, critique partners, or all of the above? Let me know in the comment section below. Help me show the lonely writer in the dark room that it’s okay to ask for help.
Sue Coletta is a crime fiction writer and a proud member of Sisters In Crime and CrimeSpace. To find out more about her and her books go to: www.crimewriterblog.com.