Need to write a scene filled with heart-clenching fear? Want to feel that shivery sweat and shaking breath?
Here’s what you do- think about taking the first step.
And what is the first step? Well obviously writing the…precious creation? Sum of all imaginative works? Epitome of literary wonders? Doesn’t ‘book’ sound a little too drab now? People are writing books left right and centre. Once you peek into the circle they all float about in the word ‘book’ suddenly seems a little less grandiose.
Nonsense. You wrote, or are writing, a book.
This is big. Even if it’s big for a scary number of other people too.
Back to coming at my point from the side…
Living vicariously through our writing is either totally sad or totally awesome. Sad because, come on, get a real life. Awesome because your own scene has you in a twist.
Could it have someone else in a twist too?
(See how I crept up on that?)
But that’s how it happens. That outside-of-your-personal-writing-bubble thought sneaks in. And you think, you wonder, you almost sort of hope- is it just me? Am I the only one who likes this? Could mammy dearest like it? What about harsh best friend? What about the world?
The first step, the first toe-dip, into the world of publishing is letting someone read your work.
Your heart’s beating a little faster, isn’t it?
When it’s just you, there’s no censor. Sure you already know you’re half cracked. You know you have convoluted corridors leading to dark corners. You know you can be diehardedly romantic, deliciously sinister and unashamedly steamy. You’re not judging you.
But having the inner workings of your mind exposed? Gah.
The thing is, a book containing only what the author feels safe having the world read is going to be one hell of a bore. It would be nice and polite.
It would be-
‘How are you?’
‘How are you?’
‘I’ve just been reliving last night in my head, so I’m a bit turned on right now.’
That brings me to my first point- if you’re embarrassed about the content, it’s probably a good thing.
(If you’re dim-witted enough to scrawl truly embarrassing stuff, then you’re too dim-witted to know about it.)
The next thing is the writing.
Chances are you know your book is not ready. It’s not done or finished or any other absolute that I don’t think can ever truly be applied to a book.
You hope that the reader will see past the not quite there yet straight to the masterpiece beneath. You’re afraid they won’t.
So, how do you press send?
Somehow you’ve moved from ‘would someone else like this?’ to ‘will you give this a read for me?’
You’re freaking out now. How do you prepare? You want a perfection brush that you can varnish every sentence with. Because as you panic, even though you were good enough to write the book, you sudden think that you just don’t cut it. You think you can’t make it good enough.
What do you do?
Read it. Read it out loud. Read it for things that don’t sound right. Read it to make sure that what you think you wrote is the same as what you actually did write. Read it for heart-gripping blunders. Read it for yourself, because you might be afraid to look at it for a while once it goes out.
And then shut your eyes.
You won’t have caught everything. It doesn’t matter. So you sometimes screw up and say’ threw’ instead of ‘through’. I’ve said ‘right’ instead of ‘write’ twice in this blog already. Whoever you’ve asked to read your work, be it someone you know or an online community, will not judge you on the odd slip. If you can’t write worth a damn it will be clear in every sentence. One wrong word won’t sway the verdict. But if you can write, if you really do know that ‘your’ is not ‘you are’, it will show. It will show in the work as a whole. A handful of mistakes will not throw your skill as a writer into doubt. If the person who is going to read your work is a writer too then they know how often those mistakes happen. And they’ll know how easily they hide from your searching eyes. They screw up too.
Now this is something I really want to stress.
Making excuses for your work. Lying. Just don’t, ok?
Like ‘it’s just the first draft’ (ahem, been over it six times.) Or ‘rough draft, just want to know if it’s worth the bother’ (it’s my beating heart; I’ve poured over it for days.)
Don’t say that you didn’t read over what you’ve sent them to read over. Don’t say it’s unedited. Don’t say it’s fresh from your fingers or hot off the printing press. (Unless of course it’s being sent to a friend and is the absolute truth).
You’re expecting them to read it and give you feedback. Don’t let them think you didn’t bother spending time on it.
Be brave. Be honest.
Don’t give excuses alongside your work.
What you should give alongside your work is anything you want them to look out for. Guide their feedback.
Feedback? How exciting! Or terrifying. Or both. That’s the next step- dealing with feedback. So if you have a suspense scene to write, save it for just before you open their reply!
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