Recently another writing friend put a wannabe novelist (WN) in touch with me. It's not that I'm an expert in writing, by any means. This individual was looking for writing feedback, and I'm part of a couple of critique groups.
We met at a local coffeehouse. WN wanted to meet me before sharing her writing. I get it. The writers in my feedback groups are supportive and encouraging. However, I've visited a couple of groups which had a few problematic members. Writing something and sharing it--especially something like a novel--is scary. You don't want to just hand over your baby to a complete stranger.
Also, what if the person you're handing over your manuscript to is a complete idiot? You don't want to have to listen to a dolt bash your work.
This is what I thought would happen: WN and I would chat over some tea/coffee, and if she felt comfortable, she'd hand over the first few chapters of her novel. We'd talked about three chapters being a good sample. What she wanted to know: was her writing crap?
One problem: this was a romance novel. I don't read romances. However, I told WN, "If you can get me interested in your manuscript, you've got something." Of course, a good story is a good story. It doesn't matter if it's dystopian or sci-fi or a cozy mystery or historical fiction. If it's written well and the characters and plot are well crafted, it sucks you in, no matter the genre.
On the counter she had set a three-ring binder. Hmmm. I've seen manuscripts clipped together or carried around in a big manila folder, but never in a binder. When she indicated that she felt comfortable letting me read the chapters, I said, "So, you're going to let me take this binder home?"
"No, I want you read it here."
So, for the next couple of hours I sat in an overstuffed leather chair and read... and read... and read. They were long chapters. I made some notes on a pad of paper I'd dug out of my purse. Later, I found out what WN was doing while I was reading.
"I texted my husband and told him, 'I think she's fallen asleep. She hasn't turned a page in a while.'" Apparently she was watching me... like a hawk. I get that too. When I gave my two beta readers my manuscript, I bit my nails (literally and figuratively) worried that my writing was so horrific, they were using the pages for toilet paper.
The good news: the characters and how they're going to possibly connect later in the book intrigued me. WN is a clever wordsmith. Her lines are crafted with care. Her phrasing kept me turning the pages, excited for more.
WN and I are now writing buddies. We've emailed each other several times in the week since we first met. I'm using
an electric cattle prod a taser gentle nudging to get WN to set a goal. She has 80% of the manuscript finished, and as we all know, blank pages can't be revised and an unfinished manuscript can't be published.
I guess my point in writing this post is this: even though it might be difficult, have faith in your reader. (This WN had enough faith in her reader to connect the dots. She didn't spell everything out, nor did she beat things to death.) Have faith in your writing friends. If you're lucky, they'll all give you brilliant advice. If you're not quite so fortunate, disregard the comments and criticism from the one or two dolts in the group.
Have a little faith... and a little trust.
Sioux Roslawski is a middle-school teacher, a freelance writer and the author of the historical novel Greenwood Gone: Henry's Story. If you'd like to read more of her stuff, check out her blog at https://siouxspage.blogspot.com