Writing is a solitary pastime, or so I’ve been told. You spend a lot of time staring at either a blank page or a blinking cursor, wishing words onto a page.
“Writing is easy,” said journalist Red Smith in 1949. “All you do is open a vein and bleed.” From my experience, writing can be easy. It’s good writing that is the difficult part. And how do you know if your writing is good? The only way you can tell if it is good is by getting feedback. So here are a few ways I have learned how to do that, ways that I consider absolutely necessary these days.
- Beta readers. If at all possible, I always try to find two or three beta readers for my book projects. These are readers who get an advance peek at the manuscript. They represent the targeted audience and have shown that they are interested in what you are doing. Make sure they will actually read what you give them, and that they will give you honest feedback. You want detailed information on what needs fixing, so don’t look just for someone who will praise your work.
- Writer’s clubs. In this situation, I am talking about face-to-face groups that meet every week or maybe once a month. Usually you get either the beginner’s type that is filled with writers who are looking for mostly emotional support–praise–or you get the hard-core group that tears manuscripts apart each session. The best groups are those that do both. You can usually find these groups around colleges and around local libraries.
- Online writing groups. I’ve tried several writing groups online, but only found two that were any good. Goodreads.com had a Christian speculative fiction group that I joined that shared manuscripts that I really enjoyed. The only problem was that we only exchanged manuscripts about twice a year. More recently, I have joined TheNextBigWriter.com and learned a great deal from the people there. They don’t specialize in Christian fiction, but they are willing to read my stuff, tear it apart and make it better. Sometimes it’s a bit painful to hear their corrections, but I can really see improvement in my work. And that’s what I am looking for. And there’s a fee, by the way.
You have to write in a vacuum, but you don’t want to leave your manuscript in its rough form. You want it to be the best book it can be, and that takes help, as much help as you can get. So if you’re serious about writing, bite the bullet and ask someone to tell you what you can do to improve.
Take it from me. We all can get a little better.