“Colleagues are a wonderful thing – but mentors, that’s where the real work gets done.” ~ Junot Diaz
“True friendship can afford true knowledge. It does not depend on darkness and ignorance.” ~ Henry David Thoreau
“I define friendship as a bond that transcends all barriers. When you are ready to expect anything and everything from friends, good bad or ugly … that’s what I call true friendship.” ~ Harbhajan Singh
“Walking with a friend in the dark is better than walking alone in the light.” ~ Helen Keller
I’ve got a terrific writer friend, or maybe she’s my mentor, who has read my manuscript more than once and tells it like it is. Last Friday I got her assessment back on the latest revisions and she wasn’t afraid to tell me I have more work to do. On the one hand, I’m sad when she tells me I need to do more work, on the other it’s a relief. It’s a relief to have a friend who knows exactly what I’m going through writing my first novel, and who doesn’t shy away from telling me what needs improving.
The first time she read my manuscript was in the spring. At that time she told me her story of sending what she thought was a finished manuscript off to a contest thinking she was going to win the prize, get an agent and have her book published by a traditional publisher. When she got the critique from one of the judges that she needed to do more work, she was devastated. “She told me things I didn’t want to hear but in the end her suggestions made the book better.” Right now I can relate to that. And I’m so glad that my friend is willing to do that for me. I could ignore her and publish my book now, but for some reason, that’s just not my style. I want it to be the best it can be.
The thing is, when artists mentor each other by giving honest critiques, there can be a hidden blessing in it. My friend told me my characters and story were good, from a new perspective, but it still needs more work. Thank heavens I don’t have to throw the entire thing out and start over again. I’m sure my friend would have been brutally honest and told me if I needed to do that. I’m not as courageous when giving critique. Or at least not with people I’ve only met online. I think bad news should be delivered in person.
About a year ago I had someone send me their manuscript so I could write a review of the book and post it to my blog. It was a romance novel, not one of my favorite genres, but I agreed. I could tell it was written by an amateur, like me. I think it may have even been a first draft. There were so many mistakes that I gave up reading it. I did learn a great deal from reading the manuscript, but I’m sorry to say I never sent any of my extensive corrections and comments back to the young writer. I was afraid if I did I would discourage her from ever writing another book. And continuing to write is one of the best ways we become better writers.
I’m sorry to say I was a coward. When I wrote the blog post about her book, I couldn’t in good conscience tell people to go buy it. So I couched everything I said about it in terms of what I’d learned from the experience of reading it for review. I have to thank that author for giving me a wakeup call about my own writing.
For those of you who are writers, I’m sure you know exactly how I’m feeling. I want to get my work out into the world. The long gestation period of birthing a novel can get tedious at times. The thing is the baby is born when its ready and not before. My baby isn’t ready to be born yet. I wish she were, but being impatient and rushing the process isn’t good. We don’t get a second chance to make a good first impression with readers. I’m not willing to rush my process just so I can say I’ve published a novel, or so I can sell some books. Nope. I’ll keep plugging away until my friend and I think the book is finished.
I’ll keep you posted about how it’s going. Perhaps I’ll include little snippets of my novel from time to time to get your take on how I’m doing. Creative and constructive criticism is always welcome.
Thanks for reading. Feel free to leave a comment or share with friends.
Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2015