Monday, March 9, 2015

Supporting Authors-The Ugly Truth

Being part of the writing community is amazing. There's so much to learn, and so many wonderful writers willing to share their wisdom with their piers. Ask for advice, and you will get it. Ask for resources, your inbox will overflow with suggestions. Need critique partners, people will raise their hand. Need a beta reader, I've got several, that will be honest with me, and not just blow smoke up my ass telling me I'm wonderful if my WIP needs work. You have a big launch coming up and need help spreading the word, your writer friends will have your back and happily share tweets and posts with their followers. At least, that's what my writer friends do. I'm feel very lucky. I'm lucky. (That's stronger.) See, I'm learning.

Here's where it gets tricky. I know there are people out there that will bash an authors work. Why? I have no idea. Why don't they simply say, I didn't like the book, or it wasn't for me, or I'm not a fan of this writer's style? Or if the book needs editing, send the writer an email. I have no interest in putting down a fellow writer, or believe myself to be better than anyone else. I'm here to support you, not step on you.

When I first started writing, which wasn't that long ago, I asked my first few friends in the community if they would be interested in an ARC of my soon to be released novel. They happily accepted.

The first reader sent me an email, letting me know she found several typographical errors in the MS and suggested I proofread and correct prior to release. I was disappointed, yet so appreciative, I thanked her profusely for letting me know in time. I swooped into action, made the changes, had it reformatted, and re-uploaded to Amazon and Smashwords only two days prior to the release date. Ready to go. Maybe not.

It was my first book, and even though I spent months editing, I'm not an editor. I thought I couldn't afford an editor. I was blind to the flaws in the book. I had read it so many times, I could recite it word for word. I thought it was done. I was wrong.

The second reader waited about two weeks to send me her feedback, not a long turnaround by any means, but she was holding back, trying to figure out how to tell me that my MS had issues without hurting my feelings. By that time I had already released my book. She finally emailed me and pointed out several places where she felt the writing was weak along with some major grammar issues. I'm not going to lie. It stung. Badly. I wanted to cry. She was kind and told me all the things she loved about the story, but she also told me all the places she felt it needed work. It was a hard pill to swallow. However, later I would realize she was absolutely 100% correct.

I decided it was too late. I sold some copies and felt relatively positive about the whole thing, having received some good reviews, but her comments kept eating at me. Once I realized all the marketing I should be doing and how to use applications like Canva, I started creating teasers for my book. By that time, my writing had already improved leaps and bounds. With the help of fellow writers, I was learning more about writing, editing, and all sorts of tips and tricks about character development. I had improved. I continue to do so every day.

I cut and paste a passage into a graphic I created for a teaser, and guess what? It was missing commas (which are the bane of my existence) and I realized the writing was extremely passive. So, I read my book again, after months of not looking at it, and I was shocked. It still needed editing, and the comments from my writerly friend came back to me.

I had been working with a group of writers on an anthology for the holidays, and during that time I worked with a professional editor for the very first time. It opened my eyes. I gobbled up her comments. And when I went back and read my novel, I knew I needed to fix it.

Long story short, I hired an editor (the same editor I worked with on the holiday anthology) and asked her to help me with a copy edit. I love my story and didn't want to change the plot, but I did want help catching all those things I missed when I published without an editor.

Once the edit was done, I re-uploaded it, and now if people don't like my story, it won't be because I didn't know how to use a comma or a dialogue tag properly. Thanks to my editor, I do.

So, now when I act as a critique partner, I know how important it is to be honest with the writer. They don't have to agree with me, but at least I gave honest feedback and they can choose what to do with it. Same thing with beta reads.

With ARCs, it's a little harder. Sometimes we receive them prior to release and other times the books are already published. When I review, I take several things into consideration, and you can read about them in my Writing Wenches blog post How I Approach a Review, but I am honest. It's important to be so, but I have no desire to hurt an author by leaving a bad review either. So, if I cannot give at least a three star review, I decline to review. I've had to send my own emails to authors after reading their ARCs with notes about editing as well. It's never easy, but it's better to let them know personally the flaws I found when reading, than to say nothing. How are they going to know there's a formatting issue with their Kindle version, or that there are typos or missing punctuation, or that maybe there are some inconsistencies in the story line if no one tells them. I want to leave rave reviews for every book I read, but sometimes I just can't.

Sometimes the truth hurts, but if it's constructive, then maybe it's exactly what's needed to become a better writer. As for me, I have a group of trusted writers, who I know will be honest with me, because they want me to succeed. Oh, and an amazing editor. If there are plot holes, or inconsistencies they will tell me the ugly truth. Thank goodness.

Have you ever received feedback from a fellow writer that hurt at the time, but ended up helping you in the end?

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Thanks for reading.

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