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Find someone who dislikes you

12 January 2011

OK, “dislikes” might be a little bit strong, but as writers, we all need at least one person who’ll not really consider our feelings.

Let me explain: you’ve gone ahead and written the great American novel (which is awesome, because in my imaginary scenario, you’re from Kuala Lampur). You have it in your hands, all 987 and a half pages of it, printed out and duct-taped to your arms because it’s so damned heavy you keep dropping it. You want to send it around to editors and agents right now, but you know better than that. You know it’s a first draft, and you need to have a couple of people look at it first.

So you give it to your mom, your girlfriend, your best pal from school, and the guy who lives on your couch. The very next day, they all get back to you, and their feedback is very much the same: “Brilliant! A tour-de-force! Would buy from again, A+++!” So you send it off to the agents, the publishers, and the liquor store (they’re going to want to give you a huge discount, you know). And then. . . nothing for months. And then! Rejections.

But why? Your novel was brilliant! Your mom and your girlfriend told you. . .

Oh. Wait a tick. Of course they told you it’s great. It’s a very rare mom or significant other who will be brutally honest and tell you when something might just suck. It might not be all 987 and a half pages that suck, but chances are the people close to you didn’t actually read them all. The guy on your couch threw his back out lifting it and just read the title.

Here’s the thing — you need at least one person (but preferably more) who wants to read your book with a critical eye. This person doesn’t have to be a trained editor, but he or she does have to a) read the whole thing, and b) give you honest feedback on what did and didn’t work. You find those people, and you’re golden.

So, friends, who’s your brutally honest critic? How has he or she helped you hone your craft?

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One Comment leave one →
  1. Trace permalink
    12 January 2011 1945

    Um, you, man. 🙂

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