Monday, June 22, 2009

Am I Any Good at This?

Tip of the Day: Has anyone used the new search engine Bing instead of Google? I'm a big Google fan, but PC World has an article online about why they prefer Bing ( I think I'll try it out.

Last week, I wrote about how I started writing regularly about five years ago. How at first, I was motivated and determined. I began by writing a few scenes just for fun, not worried about word count or anything. The point was only to get my writing skills up to speed.

But once I had a few scenes with the same characters finished, I wanted more. I wanted to know if they were any good, or if I was wasting time better spent playing Guitar Hero. I didn't want to write for my own amusement--I wanted readers. Would anyone enjoy reading this?

The only way to find out was to actually have someone read my work. And the scary part for me was that to have someone read my work, I had to tell people I was writing it.

I majored in English in college so I wasn't all that scared by constructive criticism. I had creative writing classes where we shared each other's work. People usually liked my work because it was short. I hadn't come out as a young adult/middle grade writer yet, but the early warning signs were there. None of my stories took place in the fog while the characters struggled with internal decay without resolution and experimental prose, so my college writing groups thought I was a fun girl who could stand to be more serious about writing. I walked away thinking I should write more like them, but at least I walked away unafraid of being critiqued.

This was different. This was life outside of college. This was the people I knew--my in-laws, my librarians, my coworkers--knowing I was trying to pursue a dream. And they might laugh at me. A lot.

First, I asked my teenaged niece to read for me. This was a mistake because I didn't know how to get her feedback. So she read for me, but she didn't know how to tell Aunt Kate anything but "That was good."

Teenage readers weren't going to work for me. I needed a critique group, but not one like my college days. I needed people who wrote for young adults. And what I really needed, although I didn't know it yet, was someone who would be kind to my early efforts so I didn't give up and point me in the right direction.

Then a friend told me about the Rochester Teen Book Festival. I remember listening to Alex Sanchez tell us that his novels go through at least eight drafts apiece, and feeling so relieved. Wow, that's okay then? If it's not great on the first try, I'm not a failure!

I also ran into a coworker--our own Deena, Miss Subbing for Pubbing. I worked up the courage to tell her I was writing. Great, now everyone knows! I'd better be good at this or people are really going to laugh at me. But I now had my intro to other, local YA writers.

I was all set for the next level: finding out that I had a lot of work to do. What would make it worth doing?

So my two cents is that if you're starting out writing, and you've really been working on it and putting time into producing pages, you're eventually going to have to tell people. I guess some people can pour their hearts onto the page and never need beta readers to correct their course. I don't actually know any people like this. So tell people. It can open doors.

-- Kate, Miss Perfecting the Pages


Summer said...

good advice. you can do some critiquing online but it's just not the same!

Kristina Springer said...

I was like that too Kate! I told no one until I had an agent. Then I was like, oh by the way Mom and Dad and rest of family, I have an agent now. For what? Oh, I write books. LOL.

Christina Farley said...

I love hearing about your journey as a writer. Thanks for sharing and don't give up!

Kate Fall said...

Thanks everyone! Summer, it was so important for me to find the right support structure. I think it can be done online, but it was a lot easier for me to start out being able to ask Deena a lot of stupid questions face to face.

Ghost Girl (aka, Mary Ann) said...

Too right!! Shout it out there, baby!