Day 3: Five days, and five simple pieces of advice for new authors.
Day Three. . . Tip Three
Network. This is a tricky one in some ways, because the waters of aspiring authors and published alike are murky with insecurities, meaning others can be unnecessarily critical because of their own self-doubts. That being said, the huge wealth of information available through networking is too much to be ignored.
Search out websites and writing boards, be willing to share some of your work and be open to feedback. Then, when the feedback comes, learn to sort out the responses that really resonate with you, and those that feel petty.
I don’t necessarily recommend sharing all of your heart book (see tip one), protect that one, but find sites where you feel comfortable, and write things to share. Get a feeling of what your strengths and weaknesses are.
I liken this stage of an aspiring author’s career to something like writing bootcamp. It is not always pleasant, and it is easy to get caught up in the spiral of self-doubt with others. I have seen truly talented writers get caught in a loop of just posting for feedback and giving endless critical feedback to others, while all the while being secretly scared to move forward. They never move past this part of the writing adventure.
Don’t be that person. Learn. Move forward. Be brave and believe in yourself. Every single published author has moments of feeling like a total failure. Even after years of being published, something happens that knocks us down. Survival in publishing is being able and willing to get punched in the face for your art, then get back up after it’s over, give the middle finger to whoever thinks you suck and keep going.
Gathering a bit of a thick skin before you get published will help you considerably.
So my advice is, network, but do it while remaining steadfastly determined to protect your heart, protect your self-esteem and learn as much as possible.
And while you are doing this, be on the look out for a good crit partner. If you didn’t know, a crit partner (short for critique partner) is someone you exchange work with. It starts simply, with, “Hey, I’ll read what you’re working on. Want to look at mine?” Usually, red ink will be exchanged, meaning the authors will mark up the documents, add comments, look for typos, etc. . . And send it back for review.
This is, I kid you not, author dating.
Much like real dating, it’s a matching up to see if the critiques really help, or just piss you off. More so, it’s a test if you can even stand each other and the work that comes with it. Once authors find a really good crit partner, they’ll stop author dating until sadly they lose theirs and are forced to look for another one.
This is a very special and different relationship in your life, and I think authors last longer if they have one they can truly trust. It’s much easier to get punched in the face if you have a friend around to help you up.
Fun fact--C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien were critique partners.
Typically, crit partners will help each other through the process of finishing a novel, from the start with, “Hey, I have an idea,” to the last page, where the crit partner has to break the news, “You have to fix the entire ending.” Then deal with the fall out, and say as kindly as possible, “I’m really sad you are sitting on the floor crying and haven’t had sleep in four days, but you need to put your big girl panties on and go fix your ending.” (This is a true story. For the record, I was the one sitting on the ground crying.)
So be willing to put yourself out there while you learn. It helps for a lot of reasons and do be on the lookout for someone you work well with. There’s a difference between your friend reading and enjoying it, and a critique partner who will sit there and tell you the whole truth about it. This should be someone who is in the war with you. They are fighting the same battles and most importantly, they want you to succeed as badly as you want them to. There’s a very fine balance, but ultimately, your critique partner is someone who is willing to be both the cheerleader and the asshole, a person who pushes you to be a better author and is happy when you succeed.