In many interviews with writers, this question almost always come up: What one piece of advice would you give to aspiring writers? My answer is unwavering: write every day. But
I’m never asked the second most important thing a writer—aspiring or otherwise—can do, which is this: share your work and take the beating.
I’ve often preached about the power of rejection (and holy shit is there a lot of that in the publishing industry). But rejection is just one form of feedback, and any writer who wants to be published needs multiple levels of it. And I’m not talking “my mom loved my book” kind of feedback. I’m talking dispassionate, agnostic readers who will gladly drag your carcass through hot coals if you went a little heavy on your use of commas.
There are many ways of getting feedback, but one of the best is to join (or form) a critique group. I’ve been in the same group (with band members having rotated in and out) for the past, oh, eighteen years or so. Currently we have six core members and a few others in the periphery. We meet once a month, and usually anywhere from one to four of us submit something to critique, usually a short story or a piece of a novel. There’s a structure to our meeting: first, we shoot the shit for a while. Then we set the date of the next meeting followed by confessions. Confessions allows a member to reveal what kind of writing they’ve done in the past month, which is a nifty little accountability trick. Some confess to having done no creative writing, while other might regret “only” having written forty-thousand words.
Then comes the critique part. At this point, everyone has already read the submission, and we go around the room saying what we thought about it. The person receiving the critique must remain silent during the discussion, but is given a chance to speak after the last person has finished.
It’s fucking scary! To this day, my palms still get a little sweaty before every critique. The best thing is everyone says exactly what they think of your writing. The worst thing is everyone says exactly what they think of your writing. And not only is your job to shut up and take the beating, but also to respect and learn from the feedback, and to be open-minded and curious about the comments. That’s not to say you have to incorporate all the suggestions; doing so would erode the voice you worked so hard to establish in your work. But you have to decide which comments resonate with you and rework your manuscript to accommodate them.
If a writer’s goal is to be published, they must seek feedback at the early stages, as humbling as that can be. It’s critical for success, and it never, ever gets easier. But not only will seeking feedback make your writing better, it will do wonders for developing thicker skin. And you’re gonna need that thick skin for when the real feedback arrives in the form of reader reviews. Better yet, probably best not to read those at all.
Like book clubs, critique groups necessitate wine.
Making It Up
Newly added episodes of my conversation series Making It Up are out!
This month I chatted with internationally bestselling author Kimberly Belle (The Personal Assistant), award-winning crime-fiction writer Tracy Clark (Broken Places), bestselling novelist Veronica G. Henry (the Mambo Reina series), and Falchion-award-winning writer Kimberly Giarratano (Death of a Dancing Queen).
All episodes are available on my website, my YouTube channel, and wherever you get your favorite podcasts.
Reserve your spot for my novel-writing retreat!
The details have been finalized for my Gentle Novelist coaching program and retreat, taking place August 9-11, 2023 in beautiful Boulder, Colorado. The in-person retreat is limited to 10 people and booking is now open! Read about the retreat and reserve your spot HERE.
Join me this summer for an intimate, inspirational, challenging, and rewarding writing experience. My sole focus is to have you leave the retreat with the tools, motivation, and momentum to finish that book you’ve been thinking about for years. I understand that retreats not only require commitment, but money! That’s why I’ll be awarding one scholarship per retreat, which reduces the tuition by 50%. If you are interested in the scholarship, please fill out this form.
Looking forward to helping you make your writing dreams come true.
What’s Entertaining Me
Book: Billion Dollar Whale: The Man Who Fooled Wall Street, Hollywood, and the World (Tom Wright, Bradley Hope, Hachette Books, 2018) Love me a good Wall Street scandal, and this is a big one. Basically this needy little man from Malaysia was able to parlay his insecurities into becoming the perpetrator of one the largest financial frauds in history. The dude even funded the film The Wolf of Wall Street. The finance-writing is dense and complex at times, but worth it to get to the parts about the over-the-top parties with celebrities.
Movie: Jerry and Marge Go Large, Paramount+, 2022) Inspired by a true story about a retiree (Bryan Cranston) who figures out a mathematical loophole in the state lottery, this is an easy and pleasant (if not a little treacly) watch. The cast is nicely rounded out by Annette Benning, Rainn Wilson, Michael McKeon, and Larry Wilmore. Something fun and a bit inspiring to watch when you’re otherwise sick of humanity.
Photo of the Month
Mexican street at dusk, 2009
Update from My Kids
My son (a senior in high school) asked his girlfriend to the prom. She recently committed to the University of Oregon (Mighty Ducks!), so he bought dozens of little rubber ducks to help make his sign. And my heart just melts….
Update from My Cat and Dog
The look of mutual guilt being caught mid-fight after being told multiple times to leave each other alone.
Humor of the Month sent to me by a friend
Book-Love Instagram Post of the Month
Thank you, @rebeccareviewedit! Love the pic.
That’s it for now! Until next month…