At the start of 2018 I got a round of feedback that was, well, like a fire hose of information. It took me some time to figure out how to analyze it all (you can find that here: How to Process an Edit Letter (with spreadsheets)). While I was working through all this I realized it was important to not only note the things that needed work, but the things my readers liked.
I ended up highlighting positives, and then writing them all down on a sheet of paper that I stuck up where I could see it every day:
It’s been tremendously motivational to be able to look up and run my eye over things people have said about my work. It’s a little boost, a little reminder.
I’ve been meaning to continue this with all feedback received. So today I finally went back through my records and pulled out the nice bits. Rather than hand-write this time (since that original sheet is looking a bit faded) I made printable pages. Then I stuck them on the door beside my desk, which is, functionally, my wall.
This wall/door space is where I put Important Things. At the top I have Holly Lisle’s “My Contract With My Reader” which is part of her How to Revise Your Novel course. That gorgeous photo is by Nan Melville. (You can find it here.) The rest are my praise pages.
Since each praise page is half a sheet I had space left over. I’m not exactly a ‘mantra person’ but I try to remember to trust myself. I have it on a bracelet and now it’s on my wall, with the additional, important piece: You know WTF you’re doing.
Because that’s really what these bits of praise come to signify. They aren’t flukes, I earned them. Years of study and practice led to these words. I should celebrate them. I should celebrate my accomplishments.
I’m sharing these today not to talk about my own ego, but about yours. What have you done lately to pat yourself on the back? How are you making a point of remembering that your writing is worthwhile?
Writing is a tough, tough business. There’s a saying that poems are never finished, merely abandoned, and often fiction feels this way too. It’s easy to convince yourself that the work isn’t ready yet, that it needs something more before you can share it with anyone, be they publishing professional or domestic feline.
Take, for example, UNCHURCHED. I’ve been working and reworking this book for years. (I also wrote a queried other books, always cycling back somehow.) It’s the book of my heart, which means I want it to be the absolute best it can be. Every pass I know I’m getting closer to that vision, but I also know it’s not there, yet. I dreaded looking through my feedback from the last round because all the things that need changing leapt out at me first.
But then the good points began to rise up, bobbing to the surface in their unassuming way.
That draft, which I’m probably going to pull apart and rewrite 80% of the prose, nevertheless brought out a lot of joy! I made readers laugh, moved them (to misty eyes!!), and overall wrote something that meant something. Just because it’s not perfect doesn’t mean it was bad, or a waste of time. Instead of being upset about it I should be happy that I managed to bring it to this point, a solid, engaging, spot-on, “YES! This!” point.
Then there’s The Monster Novel Structure Workbook. I was surprised all over again by how many nice things people have said about it on GoodReads and Amazon. Somehow I forgot about them over the last few months. This as well is something I worked hard on and I’m so touched that the people it was meant for are finding it useful, let alone “inspiring”.
It’s a lesson I’m going to try to keep in mind over the next year: I know WTF I’m doing. (Well, mostly.)