Trust Issues

Tessa Laird writing workshop

Writing Workshop as Writer's Anonymous Meeting. Image via Wikipedia

I have a confession to make: I have trust issues. I’ve been burned before. I’ve had people betray my trust to get . I stay closed to keep my trust from being violated, although I know I need to be open to accept love & support. The only way to grow is to examine and sometimes you need a third party examination to point out weak areas and help strengthen areas in which you are already strong. I say all of this to say…I need a reader/editing partner I can trust.

In writing you (or at least I) reach a stage in which your eye is unreliable. Your brain has this auto-correct feature. You know what you meant to say there, and your brain just fills it in. That’s part of the reason I advocate putting a piece away for a while between writing and editing.

But once you’ve gotten the grammar (almost) perfect, corrected punctuation, and closed plot holes, you still need a reader to critique your work. I learned this twice, both in the incident from the previous post and from writing workshop classes. It’s important for an impartial party to read your work for clarity & interest, to point out what’s working and what’s not, to help you find the lie in your writing. But there are pitfalls to sharing your unpublished work.

I read some of my poetry in class when I was in the tenth grade. A few years later, I found out that someone from that class “co-opted” one of those poems and was passing it off as her own work. I couldn’t believe it. I felt like Maxine Hong Kingston‘s No Name Woman–like someone had broken and sullied everything in my house and it was all my fault (“No Name Woman” is the first part of Kingston’s  The Woman Warrior).

I got queasy in each creative writing workshop class when I had to hand each person a copy of my work. Even though we all were equally vulnerable, I felt somehow more exposed, easier to victimize. I realize it was mostly a self-inflicted paranoia, but it never got any easier.

I know writers need readers, but I’ve no idea where to find a “Dear Reader” to my Charlotte Bronte (or Jane Eyre, as she is “telling the story”).

So, tell me, who reads/critiques for you? How did you find them? Does anyone read your work before a literary agent or editor? Do/did you have trust issues, and if so, how did you overcome them?


4 thoughts on “Trust Issues

  1. I’ve never given my work to anyone to critique, but it’s mostly because I trust my own abilities more than those of other people. I know I could use an unbiased eye, and I’ve had very good critiques from people who’ve read my serialized novel, but asking for someone who’s qualified and willing to read an entire novel is another matter entirely. I know a couple of people I’d trust, as far as honesty goes, but for one, it would be an impossible burden. For the other, I don’t know her well enough to ask such a huge favor.

    Trust is difficult in any area of life, and it’s really hard to come back from a violation. Somewhere along the line, though, you just have to grit your teeth and hope that you’re making the right choice.

  2. once I’ve gotten it “finished”–editing and all, as I would send it out to an agent, I’d like a second opinion. It has helped me greatly with the few pieces I’ve workshopped. One person. for instance, said the wanted to know more about one of my supporting character’s background, as she was always so blunt and domineering. Adding a few casual details made her multi-dimensional and gave the story a new angle. I donht want to miss those opportunities to make a piece better.

    But as you point out. I don’t have anyone to ask, either.

  3. I just found another benefit that comes with serializing my novel on my LJ blog. I posted that I was thinking seriously about looking for a beta reader when the novel’s last draft is complete, and one of my readers said she’d be willing. The very one I would have picked because her comments are always so insightful. It may or may not work out when the time comes, but in a way, it’s a reward for trust. I was very fearful when I started posting the novel, but the response was far more than I could have hoped for. There was criticism now and then, but it was always polite and usually helpful. Trusting readers in that way gives a whole other dimension to writing.

  4. Pingback: This Never Happened to Me Before « Copywrite1985

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