At the beginning of the year, I joined the Romantic Novelists Association New Writer’s Scheme.
I have talked about this in a previous blog, so I won’t go into it too much. Basically, you submit a completed, unpublished manuscript and receive a critique/report on it. This report is very much like the report you would receive from a professional editor. On joining the scheme we had been warned that receiving this report can be, shall we say, difficult. I guess it’s a bit like buying a new house. The house is perfect for you with nothing that you would change. However, once people start visiting they comment on the size of the utility room, or they don’t like the colour of the lounge. Even though it shouldn’t matter, it does. It hurts and the comments wound. You want to close the door and never invite anyone in ever again. This is the best analogy I can come up with to describe how getting the report feels.
Initially, I was really upbeat and over the moon that it wasn’t one page with DON’T BOTHER written on it. My critique/report was not at all bad. There were no comments about terrible writing, nothing about gaping plot holes and no ‘you’re barking up the wrong tree’ feedback. In fact, there were some fantastically encouraging comments on which to take away and build on. The feedback was mostly positive and helpful, so why did it still hit me so hard after a few days?
The points highlighted are easily rectified with a small amount of re-writing and editing, which I am currently trying to do. They consisted of comments such as I need to tighten up a plot point here and there, that I don’t need to include so many character points of view, and that old adage to show rather than tell more. He or she also wasn’t keen on the title, which in all honesty, I wasn’t either. I will admit that there were one or two points raised that I didn’t necessarily agree with, but I had already read that this is quite common as well. I’m not sure whether it was down to what is going on in the world, or just because it was the first time I’d let someone unknown read my words but I found my confidence collapsed. I’m not usually known for being thin-skinned, but I have to say, last week I nearly boxed my writing dream up and put it away for good. Which is probably a little dramatic I know.
Those around me reminded me that writing is subjective. They reminded me that I have read books before that I loved, and yet other people have hated. You only have to look up one of your favourite books on Amazon and read the reviews to see this in action. A book I read recently from a well-known author was practically all show and very little tell, and yet it had still been published and I still bought it. I hadn’t opened Word for nearly a week, I even considering deleting all my current works in progress. However, after allowing myself to wallow for a few days, I have picked myself up by my bootstraps and given myself a talking to.
I would absolutely recommend the scheme for any new writer’s, but I would also say be prepared. The association gives you plenty of warnings that receiving the report can be a kick in the feels, but in retrospect, I think I was a little too laid back about it. I was convinced that good or bad, I’d be able to read it and take on board what I needed to improve without getting upset. In reality, I obsessed about it and let the very minor negatives get under my skin and derail me.
I have decided to continue my writing journey and pursue the dream of becoming a published author. I have learnt that I need to develop resilience, especially for the horrid reviews that are sure to come in the future. I also joined a teaching scheme that is being put on the association in the hope that I can gain some confidence through that. The words of my Grandfather also came back to me. “Nothing in life that is worth having comes easy.” He was so right.