Last week I wrote about how NaNoWriMo ain’t really my thang, and how you shouldn’t feel bad if it’s not yours either, but this week I’m throwing something out there for those of you who are participating, or for anyone who writes, really. Just a little piece of advice from a First Draftastrophe I suffered a few days ago.
Over the summer I wrote the majority of my next book, Hellhole. I turned in the manuscript to my editor, the fabulous Julie Tibbott, then began the fun period of waiting for her notes. These notes usually arrive in an email that goes a little something like this (and I’m paraphrasing here):
Here are some awesome things you did that I really like!
*list of awesome things*
Here are some things that need work, but they’re all totally reasonable and will help make the story better!
*reasonable, well-thought-out list of things that will make the story better*
Of course, this is what I always read it as:
YOU SUCK LOSER HAHAHA!!!1!
I’ve been through this process several times by now, with both my editor and my agent, and yet no matter how intelligent and professional and on-the-nose their notes are, it always feels the same: like two bricks cannoned directly into my kidneys. Because no one likes getting their work criticized. No one likes presenting something and saying “Here’s my best!” only to be told “But it could be better!” But it’s all part of the process, and a very, very necessary part at that. Here’s why.
I received Julie’s notes on Hellhole last week, and this time, in addition to the thoughtful, helpful comments, there was this (again, paraphrasing):
You DO realize this one part is exactly like *well-known and beloved movie*, right?
To which I responded by dropping my jaw, smacking my forehead, and pounding my skull into my keyboard all at the same time, thinking, NO. NO I DID NOT REALIZE THAT. YOU’RE ABSOLUTELY RIGHT AND I AM A COMPLETE FRAUD AND I’LL JUST GO THROW MYSELF INTO A TRAFFIC CIRCLE NOW, K THX BYE.
I honestly have no idea how I missed this, but I did. It did not even occur to me until she said it. I’m almost in awe of my subconscious, for being that friggin’ sneaky and pulling one over on me. What else has it blinded me to all this time? Do jeans secretly look hideous on me? Have I accidentally modeled my life after Carrot Top’s? Do I hate Oreos and not even know it?
Needless to say I will be fixing this egregious error, pronto. So heed my words, other writers and NaNoWriMo-ers: let other people read your stuff, people you trust and who will give you honest, constructive feedback. They will catch things that you won’t. They will spot mistakes that are glaring to everyone but you. They will pierce the chrysalis that you’ve cocooned yourself away in to write, the one that gets all heavy with caterpillar mucus and obscures the truths about your writing that you, the pupa, really need to know in order to emerge as a beautiful, well-edited butterfly.
VISUAL SUMMARY INVOLVING A DIFFERENT KIND OF BUTTER FLY:
Reading through constructive feedback may feel akin to the feeling you get when you inadvertently hurl a stick of butter across the kitchen and onto the floor:
But once you get down there and start licking the remnants, everything will be so much better.