Mile 12: The Team

You’ve started to write, which is great! Hopefully, you’ve moved beyond the first line and maybe even written a chapter or two.

Writing can be, and usually is, a very solitary process. If you were writing a diary, or a journal, it would theoretically be designed to stay private. But you’re not. You’re writing a novel. Which means that you plan on publishing it one day, subjecting your work, your extremely hard and personal work, to the slings and arrows of an often indifferent or cruel reading public. And so you want the work to be the very best it can be, which, for most of us, means we need a little outside perspective. At least I do.

I’m going to share with you my process. To be clear, this is the process that works for me. The key for you is to find a process that works for you. You may want more people to review your work, or maybe fewer people. I like to pass chapters on when they’re complete, but I have other writer friends who never let anyone take a look until the entire book is done.

I have assembled a small group of four people who each read, review and critique my chapters. I am fortunate that each have different areas of focus, as they read my work. One looks at the overall story line, while another focuses on grammar (quite a challenge on my first drafts). A third simply gives me feedback on how the chapter struck her, and the fourth is great at seeing the bigger picture — how the chapter relates not only to this book, but also to my previous works, and what impact it may have on future books. In total, the feedback is invaluable.

Four people works well for me, but of course, you may want one or two more or less. I suggest, as a starting point, you look for help in the following ways.

  • One or two family members/close friends: Although they ALWAYS say they’ll be candid and direct, these people tend toward saying good things about the work, though sometimes accompanied by, “I really like it, but…” Don’t underestimate the importance of a little biased support.
  • One or two genre fans: Find a couple of people who love Westerns, and who have hopefully read hundreds of them. They can give you a great perspective from the reader’s point of view.
  • One or two pros: These can be editors, publishers, an old English teacher, etc. People who have no vested interest in making you feel good about your work, unless it is good, and can, and will, give you a candid, direct review of the work.

Combine the feedback you get from all three areas. Be open to listening to what they say. Be willing to make changes, large or small. But never lose sight of the fact that it is your book, your work. Stick to your guns (get it?) and write the book you want to write. It may or may not sell, but in the end, you should be proud of what you’ve written and never lose sight of the fact that it’s going to be your name on the cover.

The critical takeaway here is that there is not a right way or wrong way to get feedback on your work, simply what works best for you. What helps your project move forward, makes it better and makes you feel good about your work? Identify that process and stick with it!

I wish you good writing, and if you have a question or something you’d like to share, send me an email at [email protected].

Thank you, enjoy and keep writing!


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