Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Constructive Criticism

One of the most helpful books I've ever read is Dale Carnegie's "How to Stop Worrying and Start Living."Sure, everyone says "How to Win Friends and Influence People" is his best work. I tend to disagree. Though I honestly couldn't tell you the majority of what is in that book. What I do know, is that it changed my life -- it taught me how to be critiqued - which is imperative for my growth as a writer. Who knows what else Mr. Carnegie expounded upon. This is what impacted me, at that low point of my life, and what I can share with others as a turning point towards a better day in mine.

What's changed in my life since I read that book? Back then, I was in a crappy relationship (read UNDERSTATEMENT, and fodder for many villains in my stories), I was trying to make extra money selling soap. I honestly was miserable, but I longed for a career as a writer of fiction. I longed for love and for friendship and a home and a family that loved me.

Well, let's see. About 14 years later, (oh Lord! feeling REALLY old) I'm happily married to my soul mate (the very saying would make him cringe), I have two lovely daughters, a great "day job" career - if they'll still have me (going to see when I can go back to work tomorrow!), and I am a working Author of romantic fiction. I also have befriended numerous authors, editors, cover artists, and publishers, who are all working to define this new dawn of the Print on Demand publishing industry.

Perhaps I have my head in the clouds with aspirations of being a full time writer, but realistically, I know that is several years in my future. Right now, I'm in writing boot camp. I'm learning from my editors at TWRP - I'm on my THIRD! now working with the Senior Editor of the White Rose Line. (Hi, Nicola!) I've been brow-beat, lovingly guided, and instructed on how to improve my writing techniques on everything from: Showing - not telling, maintaining proper POV, getting rid of the dreaded words: was, felt, seemed, etc. which I'm still working on. And so many other points. They are basically bad writing habits that many of us fall into -- I'm sure you notice I have a comma problem. Apologies to that regard. I tend to comma splice when I'm thinking. Crazy.

What I can say is this. For aspiring writers out there: if you ask for criticism, be ready to take it in for the spirit in which it was given. Your manuscript will return to you, bleeding and ripped through with "suggestions" and "pointers" on the errors of your ways. Your editor is now your partner, with an equally vested interest in your success. Make no bones about it. It is the hardest thing you've ever done.

I was given an excellent piece of advice by one of my writer-buddies. She told me to breathe. Then, read through the entire thing - absorbing all of the comments. Then, pick up a pen and make your notes. Develop your tricks. Use find and replace. But, pay attention to what they say and don't assume your first pass is your best work. Give your editor's comments the chance they deserve, and soon you won't believe what you were capable of producing.

The back and forth can be difficutl. Honestly, your baby -- your precious pages -- will be the bane of your existence by the time it goes to galleys. But, having it go to galleys?!?! Having your story receive a gorgeous cover?!? an audience to read your words?!?! That's my idea of heaven on earth.


  1. How inspiring and how wonderful that one book was able to have such a dramatic effect on your life.

    Well done for pursuing your dream with such enthusiasm and being so positive about it.

    Laura Essendine
    Author – The Accidental Guru
    The Books Limited Blog

  2. Laura,

    Thank you for the comment. I'll be downloading your chapter with interest. Best of luck to you!


  3. Ashley, I found your blog, via that of my friend, Judy's. The synopsis for All or Nothing sounds fascinating and I shall look forward to ordering it from TWRP.


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