You might be forgiven for confusing the fact that Leslie and Andrew Godfrey do not write this blog. But, I’m so darned impressed with what they are doing, and their devotion and energy for their cause, that I repost all of their posts. If you click on the link at the bottom of each of my repostings, you’ll see more pictures, as well as the rest of the text.
So, on to my stuff.
Leslie posted today about Feedback. (Actually, I think she posted that earlier tomorrow, but that’s another story.) Feedback is of paramount importance no matter what you are trying to learn. In fact, to rant for a sentence or two, I believe that the worst thing about helicopter parenting is that it denies the children the very feedback on the results of their decisions that they need to become effective in life. So, I’m a writer. I’ll do the thing so many seem to like to do and ask my own question, then answer it. Has feedback helped me become a better writer?
Five or so years ago I decided to take the advice I’d been ignoring all of my life and write stuff I like to read. I started with a middle-grade reader, now available in the form of Messy Meisner. (See the sidebar.) But I didn’t just scribble that puppy out one day. In fact, I drafted it during Nanowrimo one year. Didn’t win, because there weren’t enough words in that first draft. But I had a draft. That was the year I joined SCBWI, the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. I went to their west coast national convention, which turned out to be the 40th anniversary celebration of the organization. It was pretty cool, like when I found myself standing next to Judy Blume waiting to meet Henry Winkler (this is all true.) But the best part was the feedback I received.
At that conference you can, for a few dollars more, get your work critiqued by somebody already successful in the field. Messy received a critique and ten-minute interview with Jay Asher, the author of 13 Reasons Why. So there is another celebrity that I met there, but more importantly, Jay’s critique allowed me, for the first time, to see the meaning of “show, don’t tell.” That is no small thing. He was not unkind, either, just honest, which is what I’m always looking for.
A year later, my much revised version was critiqued by Claudia Gabel, an author of several good YA books. She was also an editor at the time, so I got to query her with the book after I’d revised it again, this time to provide much needed clarity, remove some superfluous modifiers (they’re just really very bad!) and eliminate other story slowing elements. Okay, she didn’t buy it. But it was, by now, getting to be a decent story. (Click the sidebar link about “How I Became an Author etc.” for more of the story.) These improvements were all because of, taa daa, Feedback!
I have also been in critique groups, and a friend of mine, Mercedes M Yardley, got her start with the help of an excellent critique group. Again, this was Feedback, and good feedback at that!
My message this week, then, is to get yourself some feedback! Don’t just take anyone’s word for how your work is coming along. Rather, seek out those who have succeeded in selling their own words for cash. If you can get that sort of person to tell you what your work is like, you’ll be more than halfway to being an expert yourself, right?
Of course, right! Besides that, remember the rest of the rules, too. Got it? Good!