In November 2012, I took upon me to do the challenge of National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) and decided to write the novel I had inside me. I was so proud when I finished the challenge with a word count of just over 50,000 words.
I had the best intentions of editing this novel and to get it to a publishing standard but, unfortunately, my doubts and fears were stronger than my willingness and this novel was left hidden somewhere in my computer.
In 2013, I decided to do NaNoWriMo once again and, once again, I was successful. But, this time around was different and, I was positive I would overcome my fears and face the editing process.
I had a plan and it started by bringing my work out of my computer, to the world, in order to build confidence in my writing.
I decided to edit the first chapters of my novel and send them off to a mentor with the Individual Writers Support Scheme of RWA, a one-off critique of your three first chapters and synopsis by an advanced writer or published author. I was so nervous when I clicked the “send” button.
When I received the feedback, I was terrified. I opened the document straight away and, when I saw the countless revision marks and bubbles in the margin, my heart sank to the ground. My first thought was that my work was a complete disaster. I couldn’t face it and I closed the document.
I waited a few days before having a second look. I read the notes the mentor wrote and I focussed on what I could improve in my piece.
She pointed out interesting things I was not aware I was doing such as switch of POV, body parts moving by themselves, overuse of words, overuse of semicolons, just to name a few.
She also gave me the chance to completely re-write my synopsis. I found it difficult to condense to only a couple of pages my 80,000 word novel including the complexities of the characters and plot. She pointed out what should appear in a romance synopsis (era, setting, romance tropes, conflicts, resolution). I was glad she gave me the chance to do a re-write.
Overall, having my work critiqued for the first time was a great learning experience. I have a much better idea of what I should focus on whilst I’m editing.
I have now a critique partner who I found through the Critique Partner Register of RWA. I know it will be the best way to get my writing done and push it to the next level by having someone reading and sharing her thoughts on my work.
Here’s a list of things I learned from my experience with having my work critiqued:
1- Get your work critiqued when you feel you are ready. Don’t rush it. Having a critique partner is not for everyone and there are some famous authors who believe their work should stay private until it’s published.
2- When you receive the feedback on your piece, wait a couple of days before looking at the comments. It will allow you to take a step back and look at the revision with an objective eye.
3- Don’t take the comments as if they were an insult to your work. They are suggestions and, ultimately, you are the one who will decide what stays and what goes in your story so, trust your instinct.
4- Don’t get discouraged and overwhelmed. Use the comments as a source of inspiration in order to help your writing.
5- Love and believe in your story. There will always be some people who will like your writing and others who won’t.
From a beginner perspective, getting your work read and critiqued by others can be a daunting experience. But, it can also be the best way to improve your writing by getting a different perspective on your story.
Rita is a writer and blogger. She's a French Canadian woman with a Lebanese background now living in Melbourne. She speaks French and Arabic and is now learning Italian. She's a Canadian lawyer who also completed a Post Graduate Diploma in Journalism at RMIT University. But now that she has reconnected with her love for writing, she is working on editing her first novel and thinks that this is certainly one of the most challenging things she has ever done.
Rita blogs at The Crafty Expat: http://thecraftyexpat.com/