Last weekend I went to a writer’s conference and had my first manuscript critique done by a professional editor.
I’ve read plenty of blogs and industry news about this scenario. You know, the usual what to expect, how to handle negative feedback, etc. No matter how much I “prepared” myself though, I still didn’t expect to feel the hurt.
And oh man, did it hurt.
It was like a bad breakup – I was yearning to continue the conversation, replaying the incident in my head, left with more questions than answers. Second guessing everything, from storyline to main characters to my own personal motives. And like most breakups, going back and talking it through just wasn’t a possibility.
The editor’s feedback had struck an emotional chord, uncovering faults I had relied on so much to tell my story yet didn’t realize they were lurking in every sentence. Incorporating her suggestions meant facing my worst writing vices, a challenge I didn’t think I was strong enough to take on. But something needed to change or my story wouldn’t come to life the way I’d always meant it to.
On the last day of the conference, surrounded by my creative peers with unique struggles of their own yet all working towards the same dream, I felt something. I felt hope. I felt inspired. I felt thankful. I felt these things because I was going to leave that conference knowing exactly where the next phase of my journey would start. What hurdles I would encounter, and the skills I needed to overcome them. That editor wasn’t a foe, they were a mentor. Good mentors don’t just hand you the solutions to the problems, they provide you the tools to fix them and achieve the results yourself. They teach you the hard way, because the easy way isn’t fulfilling.
Moving forward would feel shitty and uncomfortable and absolutely terrifying. But in order to understand my voice and improve my craft, it’s a painful necessity. I would need to take my most addictive writing vices and transform them into virtues.
To arm myself for the road ahead, I wrote down three commitments I pledged to fulfill within the next year and cast them into a fire, watching my doubt turn to ashes with them:
1. I commit to learning more/getting to know my characters on an intimate level. Who are they?
2. I commit to working on my voice and showing, not telling my story.
3. I commit to bringing the heart of my story and the myths it’s built upon alive throughout the novel, really showcasing its uniqueness within the genre.
When I walked outside and smelt the burning wood, I felt my commitments in the fresh air, released into the world with the millions of other dreams that float with the wind.
I encourage you to stay strong. Reflect on your own development. Confront the negative and turn it into an opportunity for positivity and growth. Take an intelligent risk. Write down three ways you are going to change your life for the better and throw those commitments into the fire, sparking the way for your journey in 2015.