The story I write may be the most amazing thing I have ever personally read, but that won't mean anything if no one else gets it. And the only way to see if they do get it, is to let my friends, my beta readers, my family members and/or my critique partner read it. And not just once, either. After every revision, every editing session, every time you tearfully strike an entire chapter that was beautiful and melodious but just didn't fit into the story, you need to get your reader's feedback.
Personally speaking, my books go through at least three people before I consider it ready for either my publisher or my editor. I won't lie; it's not easy. But, it isn't always like that. The more I pay attention to feedback, the more likely I am to discover my own "writer issues." I will be even more honest here and tell you a few of mine.
- I have an unnnatural attraction to the word "clearly". Seriously, I do. If you have ever edited yourself with the "find" button (another great F-word for editing), I can admit that I use the word clearly more than I use the word looked. Really.
- I have had to TRAIN myself to not describe the shit out of everything. I have been told by editors who are buckets smarter than I, that the readers want to discover things for themselves, and when I don't give them that chance, I cheat them, then lose them.
- Lastly, I have had to watch myself with the Golden Rule of Writing: Show, Don't Tell. I suppose that's mainly due to my penchant to try and describe everything to within an inch of its life. I'll follow up with the concept more in my letter "S" post.
Feedback, by the way, is only valuable if it is constructive. And only by someone who has read your whole book. And you know who will do that. As easily as a manufactured review can be sniffed out for its vague praise and lack of detail, half-hearted feedback will scream at you. The best feedback is honest, insightful, and thoughtful. I always ask the same people to read and provide feedback not because they five-star me every time, but because they don't. I feel it is vital to a writer to have a group of these readers. I am eternally grateful to mine. Without them, I'd still be writing my first book.