One of the best ways to date I’ve learned how to hone my craft was through writing forums. I’ve been active in two within the past couple of years, Writer’s Digest and Scribophile. While taking advantage of both, I applied myself not only to posting my own stories, but critiquing other authors’ works as well.
I didn’t always feel qualified to give my opinions, but I stuck to what I knew as a reader—plot lines making sense, engaging characters and stories—those types of things. As I learned more about the craft itself, the more I felt I could offer in terms of feedback.
One thing I noticed while participating in these online forums is that a lot of budding authors carry pride around like a 100 lb. block of gold. God forbid you point out an issue with their baby. Hackles rise and offense is often taken when none was implied. With an unentreatable attitude like this, an aspiring authors chances of learning and going on to become published is slim to none.
I’ve since moved on from the forums to beta readers, a whole different ball game. Chances are, your beta readers will be friends/family who are familiar with you and your past works. Just be careful, though…even if you insist on them giving you their thoughts unfiltered and straight up, they’ll often sugar coat the negative so no feelings get hurt.
While I am by no means an old pro at the writing and publishing thing, one thing I DO know. Be entreatable. Be willing to learn. Allow yourself to be vulnerable in accepting other people’s help or constructive criticsm. Quite a few have gone on before, paving the way, learning from their own bumpy journey, and have no wish for others to experience their heartache.
My motto, though? Just be sure to chew up the meat and spit out the bones.
Everyone has an opinion and not everyone can be right. While some things boil down to a preference of style, accept what will make you a stronger story teller.
The main thing?
Don’t lose your voice, the style that is all your own. Being unique is what will get you noticed at submission time.