I’ve never been a fan of the phrase, ‘I’m my own worst critic’.
Sure, as a writer, I’m definitely critical of what I put together. I’m serious about this and I want to put effort into creating stories and characters that are worth a reader’s time. At the same time, it’s pretty damn easy for me to turn a blind-eye to certain quirks of mine because I like them.
There’s nothing wrong with that. It’s down to what we like or don’t like and sometimes we like things that others don’t. As an example – I sure love me some em-dashes. Not sure why, I just do. Plenty of other people? Not so much.
So anyway, I’ve been working on a novel for a little while now. Last year, I “completed” it and felt comfortable enough to start querying for agents.
The response was actually pretty good!
I got quite a few nibbles for full manuscripts and while I received rejections, those who read the full piece had high praise and incredibly kind words for me. While the rejection hurt, I was definitely steadied by the kind words. It means a lot when anyone reads what I pull together, but it’s pretty cool to have someone in the industry tell you that you’re on a good track.
Of course, it wasn’t quite there yet.
So I shelved it. Worked on a few other bits. I figured I’d return to the novel in January with a pair of fresh eyes and I can work on ironing out kinks. In that downtime, one or two people were kind enough to give the book a beta read and share their thoughts. I wasn’t going to let rejection (and minimal rejection compared to what so many tell me) make me quit or not follow the path I want to follow.
So I opened that MS on January 1st, read the first chapter…
…and immediately deflated.
I didn’t know what to fix. Nothing felt “wrong”.
So what’s a guy to do? You know your book is well-written. You know there are things people really dig about it and there’s a metric shit-ton of things you dig about it. The blinders are fully on.
YOU CANNOT BE YOUR OWN WORST CRITIC.
At first, I figured I needed more time away from the book. I wrote a bunch of short stories and a whole new novella. Still nothing.
So I started exploring that other option: the editor.
What a scary concept. Hiring a professional to read through my story and eviscerate me. I mean, seriously, PAY a person to shred my ego apart? What kind of asshole does that? Well, other than someone into BDSM (I ain’t judging).
So I started to research a few places. I didn’t want to bother anyone, so I kept quiet.
I wasn’t having an easy time of it.
I mean, this is a huge decision. I’m willing to part with hard-earned monies and, with no guarantee that this will actually help, have someone tell me what is wrong with my book.
That’s terrifying. Free advice, hell, that’s easy. I can take or leave it. It doesn’t matter, right? I’ve been open to critique before and I’ve got thick skin. I can take a few gut shots so long as I believe the person delivering them is doing it with helping me in mind. It’s the same way I am, and I’ve been called harsh. I’m only harsh because if I bother to agree to critique someone, well, I’m invested in helping them be the better them that they can be.
But, still…the money.
I digress, we’re doing kitchen renovations soon and I’ve been kicked in my wallet’s balls.
So, back to the editor search. It was fucking fruitless.
Chris, aside from being an absolute BEAST of a writer (check out his work here: http://chrisfholm.blogspot.com/), has also been incredibly kind to me. He’s provided great advice and the occasional boost in the short time I’ve known him. I truly admire the guy, and respect the hell out of his opinion. So when he posts this eerily perfect recommendation, well, I listen.
I literally messaged Sara a few minutes after that post. Mind you, I waited a little while to not look weird or crazy.
By the end of the day, she read my first 10K and tore me a new one.
I was thrilled.
Sara is fast, like, scary fast. I can say without a doubt, she’s the first reader I’ve ever met that is faster than I am. So I’m not selling it short when I say that it really did scare the hell out of me.
At the same time, she called me out for all of my bullshit and she did it in a way that worked for me. No punch held back. I NEEDED to hear these things and thankfully, the advice registered.
So I hired her.
I’m already over the moon about this decision. My MS is tighter than it’s ever been and I can say that I actually LIKE this book now. I think that’s an important distinction. We can like or love our ideas. We can feel that we’ve put together something good, and yeah, that can all be true, but to genuinely LIKE something you’ve bled and sweat into on this level. I don’t think that’s very common. I’m happy with Hell Chose Me, and let me tell you, I’m normally never happy with a damn thing I write.
That’s not to say the MS isn’t open to more fine-tuning. I’ll never be the type to believe that work is ever done, but I am of the mind that this is also a book that YOU would like (yeah, you, with the face), and that’s absolutely huge.
Now I feel like I’m ready to tackle querying again. And you know what? Succeed or fail, I’m doing good work here. If there’s more to fix, add, or subtract, I’ll do that. I’m over that hump where I couldn’t understand or really see the problem.
All I needed was a good kick to the ass.
SEE WHAT I DID THERE?
Anyway, I can’t recommend Sara enough. If you need an editor (and can handle paranormal speed and blunt feedback) she is worth your time and absolutely worth your money. Check out her website: http://www.sarajhenry.com/ and contact her ASAP. Don’t overthink it, just do it.
And still, no guarantees. Realize that’s fine. Then go and keep writing.
Sara, Chris, again you guys rock. Thank you.