Monday, September 3, 2012

I Love Criticism!

When I was a kid I remember my father having a German beer stein with the inscription, ‘We are too soon old and too late smart’.
So true!
It is also said, that as a writer, you really don’t develop your ‘voice’ until after you have written a million words. I am proud to say that I have done this. What I’m not-so-proud to say is that I’ve probably had the same amount of words edited out of my manuscripts.
Because I was so in love with my witty prose and clever bon mots that I was sure the world would surely perish if a single word of my literary brilliance was removed.
Fortunately, I had the astounding good fortune to meet my future editor at a writers critique group. Every 2 weeks we’d meet and submit our latest chapters for review. At the time I was quite impressed with my own brilliance (still am) and expected standing ovations after my submitted chapters were read before the group.
I know you’re expecting me to say that the response was less than enthusiastic, but overall my work was generally well received. One person however, regularly returned my submission with extensive editing corrections. Entire paragraphs were crossed out, what I thought were dazzlingly creative sentences were chopped into little pieces, nit-picking minor details were questioned, like: “Why is the TV show called The Daily Report on page 112 and The Nightly Report on page 128? Or “Why wasn’t there a description of the setting in this chapter?” On and on he’d go and I began questioning his motives. Was this guy trying to show me up? Prove that’s he’s better at this than me?
As it turned out that wasn’t his intention at all.
We went out for a beer after the group one evening and I asked why his critiques were so harsh. He asked if his editing suggestions, once implemented, made the story flow better, read better.
I had to admit that it did, considerably.
It really, really, hurts when you pour your heart and soul into your writing; give it your best effort only to have it returned with major edits. It’s like sending your kid to his first day of school and having him come home with a black eye, a fat lip and torn clothes.      
So cowboy, here’s the question. How important is the quality of your work to you?  Have you learned to take constructive criticism in stride and learn from it, or do you take any criticism as a personal insult? How skilled a craftsperson will you be when your book is presented to the real critics at The New York Times and The Washington Post?
It’s been ten years since that first meeting and I am happy to say that he is no less harsh now than he was then. Even after all these years and all I’ve learned about the process, when I submitted my latest, Noon 2: The Resurgence to John Briggs at Albany Editing, (   what I received back had page after page of editing changes and corrective comments.
It still hurts, but I make the changes because my readers deserve my best effort every time. I want them to anticipate the arrival of my latest novel the way I anticipated listening to the latest Beatles album when I was a kid. If my ego has to take a beating to acquire that sort of devotion, to acquire that kind of skill, then bring it on.  I’d much rather that, than disappoint my readers.
If I had known then, what I know now.
It’s sort of ironic that now that I know how to write, I learn that writing isn’t the most important skill needed to be a successful writer. To become a successful writer you need to be a skilled marketer. To gain customers, people must become familiar with your product. How do you do that? You give out free samples.  Since November of last year over 4500 people have read my blog posts and because they’ve enjoyed it, they’ve started buying my books. They’ve also viewing my book trailer videos which can be seen on YouTube at    or by scrolling down past the posts to the video section of this blog below.
I also offer free technical help to other authors. For example, you can learn how to correctly upload your manuscript to Kindle by going to and clicking on the Free Writing Tips on the toolbar.
And speaking of free, click here:   to read a free sample of my latest, Noon 2: The Resurgence which comes with a 30 day money-back guarantee (Sorry— U.S. residents only, details at the top right side of this blog site)
I’m confident that if I can get you to read just one of my books, you’ll read them all. That’s why I offer the 30 day money back guarantee. Because I’m THAT sure. So take a look at the slideshow above, click on any title (note* Frostie and Half Moon are young adult novels) read the sample and download your choice to your electronic device. You won’t be sorry, I guarantee it.