A week ago, I was riding high. My website was ready to go live, I had a new logo, the business cards were ordered. I had submitted the first four chapters of my debut novel work-in-progress to two different writing contests and had plans to submit to three more by the end of March. Life was good. I was confident--dare I say, overconfident. I sent those same chapters to a writing friend, one who has been writing for over ten years and is now winning or finaling in multiple writing contests. I’ve been writing seriously for one year. I told her to be honest, to tell me the truth about what she thought of my work.
Well, she was. Honest. Blunt. I was crushed. I got her email late on a Friday evening. My husband, sensing my mood as I stared down at my cell phone, said a quiet goodnight and snuck off to our bedroom. I had entered earlier versions of those same chapters in two prior contests and gotten back better scores than expected, so I think my writing friend was anticipating more from me than what she read. My craft needed work, she said. My story doesn’t start in the right place. Boring. Unnecessary. Telling, not showing.
“Go to bed,” I told myself. “Don’t react. Sleep on it.” So I did, all the while reminding myself of the many lectures I had given my children over the years about working hard and sticking with things, even when they got tough. One of the character pillars of the K-8 school my children had attended was “Perseverance.” As I lay in bed wondering if I would ever have the energy to make major changes to my manuscript or even start completely over, I reminded myself that what was a good lesson for the children, was a good lesson for their mom.
And I am persevering. When I gave myself time to get over my wounded ego, I went back and took a hard look at my friend’s comments. She had taken the time that others hadn’t to read with a critical writer’s eye. To give me the kind of advice I’m sure she wished someone had given her earlier in her writing career. My friend has spent several years painstakingly improving her craft. If my intent is to improve as a writer, am I going to choose to be insulted by her honesty? No, I am choosing to be grateful for the time and effort she put into reviewing my work. I am choosing to be grateful that she sent me that email, knowing it wasn’t what I wanted to hear and maybe fearful of its impact on our friendship. I am back to writing, taking workshops, reading others in my genre, and putting in the hard work necessary to develop my skills as a writer.
I am persevering. One day soon, this manuscript will be worthy of presenting to the world. That day is not today. Stay tuned…