Last week I made a small contribution to the £12,000 raised by Authors For Japan. I bought something very exciting-looking. And I also sold two items. The first, a signed book, was easy. Jiffy bag, job done. The second, a manuscript critique, will be much harder.
Of course, I know exactly how it feels to have people reading your work and pulling it apart. It happens to me all the time and I love it. Writers need readers like yin needs yang. Yang on it's own looks like a one week old foetus. Hmm, maybe that's an image a critiquer would have me re-work.
Over the years, I have been priviledged to have a number of different people read and comment on drafts of my work. The MA in Creative Writing at Bath Spa provided me with a solid core of peers who would shout me down if I went all OMG with the exclamation marks (early drafts of my prose tend to look like a place punctuation goes to die). We still meet once a month, three years after the course ended.
Online communities have also helped. A few authors I've met love WriteWords. Personally, I like Litopia, it has none of the competitive element of some peer-review sites and the critiques are harsh in a way that only strangers can manage.
Then, a little later down the line, there's my agent and editor. People who can be relied upon to tell me when I'm going astray. Some of my stories have even required specialist readers - a Somali family were kind enough to check one a few months ago. The novel that will be published this summer needed a golfer's view of the final draft (a golfer's view?! OMG!! ).
I know exactly how it feels to hand over a piece of work and be told: try harder, think clearer, make it better. It hurts, it's hard. I hope that doesn't mean that I will pull any punches when it comes to the assessment I do, because it's what we need if we're ever going to get our stories out to the harshest readers of all - children.
Who reads your drafts for you?
Read more about the need for a golfer's view at
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