(Note: because of the mood I was in, this post has a lot of somewhat-irrelevant endnotes. Feel free to read or ignore in equal proportions.)
Quidditch evening and we all got certificates. Because we’re that sort of amused team. Why ‘Fearless’? Well, because I’m only 5’2 and I was taking on opponents 150% my size. I believe – if I remember correctly – I was rammed to the floor twice, and beat (ie. hit with a bludger) multiple times, even why I tried tackling the other Beaters for their balls. I’m not great at tackling. Nevertheless, I tried, and I guess that’s what the certificate is on about.
It’s funny… One thing I’ve learnt from all my writing is to be fearless. That made me think. One has to surge up a lot of courage to, firstly, post work-in-progresses online, be it on a blog such as this, or a writing site or other engagements. Then, when we’ve just recovered from the unprofessional attacks, we enlist professional unprofessional people(!), betas and critique partners, and they just do it all again with greater barbs, punching our chapters into pieces.
Eventually, we send what we think is the best of our baby to query potential publishers and agents. Often they say no, and that’s something to be feared…when some might call it ‘failure’.
I never realised being a writer would be such a tricky job, but it is. I’ve learnt (and, it amuses me to think of those aspiring writers who will learn this in their months and years*).
We all can be fearless. How?
> Take a deep breath before and after sending. This may sound like either a) a silly speculative idea or b) obvious/extraneous, but it does help. If you’re someone like me – anxious and overthinking – you’re bound to check and double check and triple check. Not a bad thing, necessarily, but one procrastinates to the point that one doesn’t send that email, for want of reading through again. Instead, read through – then, take a moment to say to yourself ‘this beta/critiquer is judging my work, not me, and it’s something for which I have enlisted them. They’re there to pick out the ‘bad’. or ‘ it’s not the end of the world if this agent says “no”. There’ll be other agents.’ And maybe you know, in your heart of hearts*, that your MS is not perfect, but you’re waiting for verification of the negative.
> A rejection, a bad comment, a critique is not a failure. Your book still rocks. You know that. People who do well in critiquing tend to be those who enjoy your story. Yes, it may have grammatical flaws, plot-holes and Mary Sues/Gary Stus, but that doesn’t mean that the fiction in se is not a cracking read. Take my very first novel(la) for instance: I’ve never given up on my idea of rewriting my murder mystery; even through its clichés and one-page chapters (true story!), I’ve still got a black humour piece about a fourteen-year-old losing and trying to avenge the man she considered her best friend, but knew nothing about. The beginning chapters have found their own beta, and, though on hold, my dream of one day publishing her lives on. Yes, I refer to some novels in gender.
And I can only do that through criticism.
> Brace yourself. Not in a dreadful, war-is-coming way, but do be aware that some people out there will have no interest in your story in its purest form; some will love the idea, but dislike the execution*; others will be sharp-eyed and pick out a lot of ‘mistakes’. In a way, one could deduce that the more pedantic points a critiquer finds, the more they a) love your story and want it to be semi-perfect* and/or b) are jealous of your plot/writing style/characterisation and want to intimidate you(!).
> Stay confident. I know, I know: it’s the last thing anyone wants to do whilst they’re sending their baby into the world; we want to wrap our arms around our manuscript and defend it from the mean critiquers. Actually, loving something merely because it’s yours to protect doesn’t work*.
I’m not sure which character in which show said/used it – edit: I think it was Barney, hence the gif below – but if you act confident enough when acting/pretending to do something, people will believe you. That is, if you stick to your guns that your story is good enough to be published and show that through a super query and super writing, agents will want your story.
*’Months and years’ because we all work at different speeds. For me, I finished my first novel in months, went through and did my amateur version of ‘editing’ for another couple of months, but spent two – maybe two-and-a-half – years on a writing site, taking the feedback of people not aiming to properly critique. It’s been just over a year, this month, in fact, since the day I got my first Beta reader, and I’m happy to report that she’s still there for me when I need her – a short story about modern-day fairies is out with her at the moment. :’)
*This is a question: any idea about what might be used to replace this ‘heart of hearts’ or ‘deep down’ cliché?
*This is unfortunate, but, as a reader, I come across a lot of self- or small-press-published novels where my mind is captured by the back cover, but I read the first chapter or two (as a student, I have to make sure I really want a book before impulse-buying it – and, no, before you say it, that isn’t a contradiction!) and the language or style of the prose just isn’t for me. This is especially true of YA books, hence why I have been slowly moving to reading NA as well as writing it.
*(Because I believe that only God is Perfection, I never say the word in its purest form, instead opting for the variations of semi-perfect.)
*Often. I’m still standing by the theory that acting on love’s terms means protecting another no matter what the cost is to yourself. Oh, and real-life babies. Gotta protect those cherubs.