When I started writing my novel, I was on my own. I'd sit down at the computer after the kids went to bed, turn on some music, and just let the ideas flow. If my husband came in, I'd click to another screen. I was afraid if I shared and it was bad, my spirit would be squashed and it would cease being fun.
Then one day on the way out of music class with my sons, I saw an advertisement for a facilitated critique group, led by Carmela Martino. I picked up the flier and ultimately decided that if I was serious about not only writing fiction, but also getting published, I'd eventually have to let someone else read my work. I mean, that's kind of the point, no?
My husband served as the guinea pig. I felt I needed a buffer between me and strangers. So I let him read the first chapter. He was pretty terrified, knowing that he had to have the right reaction--not blasé, but not too overly enthusiastic either. God love him, he did a good initial job and had me convinced my efforts weren't awful. Then I saw what he had done to my first page. It had red all over it. After a minor freak out, I accepted that his suggested changes made sense, but asked him about 500 times before class if he had been truthful about the rest being OK.
Much like with my husband's loving (and brave) critique, during my first class review I had trouble focusing on the positive and zeroed in too much on the negative. One woman in particular didn't like my main character, and her harsh comments threw me for a loop. It caused me to completely change the tone of my first chapter, which I resubmitted during the course of the class.
Thankfully, my other classmates, most of whom are now beloved members of my critique group, set me straight and let me know that the personality of my main character had been one of the best things about my first draft. They made me listen to and really hear all the good things they'd said about her and about my writing.
The second round of the class was even better than the first because, for one, I knew and trusted my fellow classmates and I'd come to believe that they really had my best interest at heart. Criticism from them isn't an attempt to tear down, but to build up and improve.
I couldn't have asked for a better bunch of people to continue with in a critique group. Everyone is so knowledgeable about writing and so invested in each other's work. It is a pleasure to read all of the novels in progress and the new stories that my fellow members submit. I am humbled by their creativity. It is a joy to spend a couple hours a month meeting with people who love writing and are anxious to talk about it. And, they are funny! We laugh a lot. Like Ellen, I always leave energized.
I guess the point of this whole post is to say that while it can be difficult to let others into the imaginary worlds we create, it is invaluable to have friends who respect your work and you as a person. (And, who are willing to read your manuscript about a thousand times before you submit it for professional review.) I am so thrilled to be a part of the Write 6. (My husband is happy too, that he is not my sole reviewer.)