Sunday, March 14, 2010

Unflinching honesty

Why am I still screwing around with this novel after three years? I'm about halfway through my umpteenth round of revisions on this thing and still, I'm not even sure if it's any damn good.

Look, I know I'm a decent writer. I was a professional writer/columnist/editor for 25 years. One doesn't pull that off without a modicum of talent. But fiction writing? Ah, that's a cat of a different color, now isn't it?

Yes. It is.

And those of us who write fiction -- hell, those of us who read fiction -- know there's far more to a good novel than just decent writing. There has to be a story, and a pretty good story. It has to more or less follow a standard formula and it must contain things like pacing, good dialogue, suspension of belief, drama. Stuff like that.

Because if it has none of those things, it's just a collection of words. Decent words, sure. But words nonetheless. Not a novel.

Where am I going with this? I don't know. I know I'm exhausted from working 15-hour days on Friday and Saturday and getting very little sleep in between. And I know when I'm exhausted, I get cranky and when I get cranky, I shouldn't be allowed within twenty feet of a computer. Especially one containing a blog I happen to write. Because I tend to rant and rave and ramble on like a crazy person.

But I digress.

Or do I? It's possible I think the novel is crap because I'm cranky and in a bad mood. Right? Possible. Maybe I freaked out a bit over the edits that kindly book editor Staley wants me to do and chose instead to believe she hated the book and is just too nice of a person to actually tell me that.

Maybe. I hope so.

I can be a bit paranoid when it comes to my writing because, damn it, I have no way of knowing if it's any good! I am not a good judge of my own work.

Man, that is so frustrating. I mean, I can read someone else's work and know immediately if it's a piece of shit or if it has possibilities. But when I read mine, I want to puke. Seriously.

What I need is a couple of really good, really honest beta readers who will go through the entire manuscript and then tell me, straight up, if it's any good. Who will give me constructive feedback when needed. I don't want someone telling me how great it is, I want someone to tell me how I can make it better.

I want -- I need -- unflinching honesty.

Any volunteers?


  1. You are ahead of me in that you have a writing background, and you have managed to put it all down. If you really want someone to read it I will put my hand up, but are you sure there isn't someone in your life with enough chutzpah to be brutal?

  2. I can beta for you, if you like. I'm not a professional editor, of course, and I have my own serious doubts of ever being published myself, but I'm hell with my blue fonted parentheses when beta reading for someone(I am for two people already, but I'm BORED now since they've not sent me stuff for days). I can only do it in the evenings since I work all day so I might not be as fast as you'd like, but if no other volunteers arise, let me know if you have to settle on me. :-)

    I got my first personalized rejection today. I've decided conclusively that I prefer the form rejection. She said, "Truth be told, though, I'm afraid these pages just didn't draw me in as much as I had hoped. I'm pressed for time these days and, what with my reservations about the project, I suspect I wouldn't be the best fit."

    Which translates in Christi-ese, "You suck. You're like the worst writer EVAR. Why did you send me this shit. You should be shot then set on fire. Stop querying others. You're embarrassing yourself."

    Then again, I could be over-reacting.

  3. I would gladly volunteer, however, I'm having a similar crisis as you know.

    Writing is very subjective. What one person may love, others may hate. That will always be the case. A good thing in many respects, because if we all liked the same type of novel, there would only be a handful of authors fighting for the top spot.

    You and I both know, it is not our writing that will fail us, as it is (and always has been) solely based on the perspective of others. There is no right or wrong.

    You and I just have to like what we've written. Easily said than done. Of that I'm under no illusion. Keep at it :)

  4. NO writer is a good judge of his own work. There are days when I feel like my writing is nothing but crap and I'm never going to write anything that isn't crap. Sigh. It can get very depressing. Wait a day or two to look it over again. I'm sure you'll be surprised at just how much you like it. :)

  5. Hey Terry,

    Now that you've had a chance to sleep(hopefully), how do you feel now?

    If you would like me to read it and let you know what I think, I'm here for ya.
    But, will you really be satisfied then?

    Contact me, send it to me, what ever you wanna do, just let me know.

    Obviously, I can relate, I guess that's why I keep stopping and re-starting on my work.

    I will do for you what I would want done for myself. Let me know...

    Hang in there. ;) It's all happenin'

  6. Right now I wouldn't have time to do it, but I can tell you in all honesty, what I've read is great. I'm not a big fiction reader and your story truly intrigues me. Particularly since you've been putting up the character sketches. I think your editor wouldn't be working with you if she hated or even disliked the book.