Writing Wednesday: Revising the Life into Your Story

Welcome to Writing Wednesday!  This is my little corner where I update you on my writing and discussions going on in the writing world of interest, share call stories of fellow writers, and generally geek out over all things writing. I hope you enjoy this installment!

word count

My current word count on my #Blurb2Book entry, Always the Last to Know

If you follow me on social media,  you’re more than aware that I  was one of 75 people selected to  move to stage 2 of the  #Blurb2Book competition hosted by Harlequin’s Love Inspired Editors for all three lines. A record 326 people entered! Needless to say I was ecstatic when they picked my first page and hundred word blurb to move on to the next round.

I’ve been working on the proposal due May 1st, which consists of a cover letter, synopsis, and the first three chapters of my story. This is a new process for me. I’ve only written two synopses, and only one of them was written before the book was finished. I usually edit the previous day’s work before I start the next day, but now I’m having to revise as I go, a completely different prospect. I need to have three complete chapters that balance depicting what’s going on now with hinting about things that won’t happen for chapters without seeming ham fisted and amateurish without having the benefit of having written the story and knowing exactly how it ends on the page.

Revising as I go has me thinking a lot about my revision process. I think I’d make an excellent editor because I think writing revision notes is my super power. My critique partners think my drafts are really good, but that’s because I revise much better than I write. So what do I do in my revision process to make my manuscript sparkle?

  • I print out the section I’m working on. I can do some light editing on the screen, but for proofreading and revising, I need to print the pages. Sorry trees! I do recycle when I no longer need them.
  • I read through the pages and make notes in the margins, usually first thing in the morning. I go with my gut. Sometimes this means I write “fix” or “make this better” because I don’t know how to fix it yet. I may write “add in emotion” or “show he’s upset by his actions.” Sometimes this is me highlighting a phrase I want to change or circle words that I repeat too close together so I know to find a different way to say something.
  • Unless it’s a proofreading correction, I don’t make any of the changes right away to the saved manuscript.
  • I make sure I know why something isn’t working and indicate it in my notes. There may be more than one way to fix it, so I need a way to determine which changes address the underlying issue.
  • I edit in red. It’s a psychological thing. I feel like my manuscript has been attacked and is bleeding; it’s my job to heal it. I have to treat each nick and cut. (See? That wasn’t as morbid as you thought going in, was it?)
  • The biggest secret to my revision process? I revise as a reader, not a writer, in the first pass. I don’t read for structure, check word count, or check items off the story arc checklist consciously when I make revision notes. I’m a reader first. I’ve read more than enough of these books to know what works for me in a book. If this were a book I bought at Wal-Mart and I read this, what would I think? Is there something missing I should know? Is there something here I’d skim or skip altogether? Did the end of that sentence, paragraph, scene or chapter make me turn the page or would I put my bookmark here and put a load of clothes in?
  • Bonus: My best kept secret? I make a “cutting room floor” document for every story I start. I put everything I cut out into that folder. That way if I need to add that backstory in later, I can. I can make a newsletter containing a deleted scene or something if the book is published. No matter what I do or don’t do with these words, I never truly lose any of them. This makes me feel better about deleting them from the manuscript, and the manuscript gets to be better without all the dead weight.

Revising as you go is a hard thing to do. But knowing my characters and the big plot points makes it easy to decide what to put in and what can be left out or added to a later scene. So far this process has worked for me. Let’s all pray it continues to for a long time.

Your Two Cents: How do you tackle revisions?
XOXO,

Erica

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Good Bones

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One of the discarded choices for my book cover. I took this photo at a friends wedding.

You may have missed all of the hoopla about the fact that I received my book cover from the graphic designer this week, but I didn’t want you to miss anything else in this publication process. You are all my writer friends, so I can’t leave you out of the writerly aspects of getting this book baby out there. If you want to read my feels about the process, you can head on over to http://www.aseriousseason.com and see those. But today I want to talk about revising my non-fiction book.

My name is Erica Denise Hearns, and I am a perfectionist. I’ve been a perfectionist for years. I would quit for a while but sooner or later, the old each keeps coming back and I give in. It was bad at the beginning of this week when I tweaked almost every element of my book cover, but now that I’m reading the book after a couple weeks’ hiatus, it has become supercharged.

When I opened the Word document a few days ago, I thought I’d just be finishing the sections that weren’t finished. I was convinced that I’d done all the revision/editing I needed to do for what was written. I would go over the most recent additions, then move on to filling in the missing areas. Not so. I’ve notice some major things out of whack in the beginning. It makes me want to throw my laptop because I already gave the book to beta readers to look over. In the first four sections/chapters, I’ve moved one section up, one down, and extensively revised another. About 75% of what I read has been moved or changed. I’ve removed chunks of useless words, large and small. I’ve nipped, tucked and tightened all over the place. I feel like a plastic surgeon on Botched: this manuscript has been disfigured and now I have to fix it.

It’s not all bad, though. Other than one chapter that needed major revisions (the chapter that everything else flows from, so it has to be perfect), the rest has just been finding the flow and deleting unneccesary words. It’s like the hero’s comments about a run down house in a book I’m reading: the house has good bones; most of the work to be done is cosmetic. I’m adding subheadings and cleaning up copy in most sections. I’m checking and adding references. I’m adding quotes. I’m prettying up the place, so to speak.

How is revising non-fiction different from revising fiction? For me, I spot repetition and junk words a lot easier. I’m good at making sure the paragraphs are organized well and paragraphs are broken in the correct places. It’s easier to spot derivations and asides in my non-fiction voice. I have a better grasp on how to tweak my words to wring out the emotions.

On the more difficult side, I have to make sure that my tone is working well. It’s hard to know how someone will read something. I’m trying to season my words while being clear, which can be hard to balance when you’re taking a stance or position that may be unpopular. I have to check that everything I present as a fact is corroborated, and that I clearly state when something is an opinion. I have to balance how much information I am giving all at once and use things like enumeration, bullet points and subsections to break it up into manageable chunks. It’s like writing a really long college essay.

The hardest part about self-publishing this book, to me, remains the marketing. I think I creating a cover that will draw the eye. What else can I do to build interest in the book? What marketing tips do you guys have for non-fiction Christian books?

It’s a Process…

CAUTION: LONG POST AHEAD!! I highlighted for your convenience.

One of my critique partners and I were discussing our latest critiques this morning when she suggested that I should write a post about my editing process. I LOLed and my editing process is a big puzzle and promised to write a blog post about it before dashing off to work.

To explain my process, I have to say some things that may make you think I’m crazy or just plain lying, but I promise I’m being as truthful as possible. Before I tell you my editing process, I have a few confessions to make:

  • I don’t actually have a process. As someone who has been writing a long time, you’d think I had a full formula to lay out, complete with charts and graphs and formulas for success, but I don’t. I’ve written mostly for myself. I’ve only been actively pursuing publication since September, so I’m still figuring out my process editing wise. 
  • I’m what some would  call an English prodigy. I never tire of saying that. I have to remind myself of it constantly when I can’t seem to write well to save my eternal soul. I got a nearly perfect score on the English portion of the ACT, which was mainly saying whether or not a sentence was wrong and fixing it. My brain is hardwired for copy editing and proofreading. I enjoy it. Red pens make me happy. Feel free to hate me.
  • I never revised before my senior year of college Creative Writing class when we  were required to revise an earlier work. I didn’t revise for years afterward. I liked to think I was the Jay-Z or Lil Wayne of writing–a one take wonder. Of course, the quality of the material the two of them have put out over the years is debateable enough for me to rethink my writing role models. 😀 My stories benefit greatly from revision. I was an arrogant little prodigy (see above), so it took me a long time to figure this out.
  • I have never written a complete first draft. I’ll explain this one later.

Now that you know I am no expert (but kind of am), I’ll share my process. I am a person who edits/revises as I go. I know this is anathema to some, but it’s the only way I can function. I HATE rough drafts and never write them. When I finish a first draft, it is more like a third or fourth draft. I usually write in the mornings and revise later in the day. I print out the day’s writing and take it with me to proofread and make revision notes in the margins. At the weekends, I will read the week’s writings for content and continuity across chapters, development, etc. I perform the most pressing revisions here. About every other week, I try to read through everything I have from a reader’s perspective and make a few more notes.

Once I finish the first draft, I go through chapter by chapter, polishing and making sure all the revisions are completed. I sit down with the entire thing and read it as a reader would once more, addressing anything I feel needs changing before my critique partners get a look at it.

There are times when myprocess is different. When I entered So You Think You Can Write with Pleasure’s Payne, I learned that the Harlequin Love Inspired editors do not like prologues. They want to jump into the story and see the hero and heroine on the page together as quickly as possible. They like larger sections in one point of view without head hopping. They were looking for everything my entry wasn’t. 

I wrote until the announcement of the top fifty, then set it aside. When I returned to the manuscript, I scrapped the first 7-10 pages. It was heartwrenching. I hate major revisions, and I loved that prologue, but I had to kill my darlings. I found a spot where the action began and began from there. I set up the heroine’s internal conflict and inciting incident, then got the hero on the page. I sprinkled in expressions of her grief and other important information from scrapped pages. I changed areas of head hopping to one perspective and showed the other character’s feelings through dialogue and body language wherever possible. I hated every bit of it and did it with one eye open and the original tucked away on a flash drive just in case.

And I came out of it with a much stronger story. I proved to myself that I can revise and make my manuscript even better. I don’t have to get it right in one take (that is made up of tens of takes!). I have to step back and let things marinate for a bit before I wade in, but I can do it.

How do you tackle editing and revisions? 

The Writing Show Must Go On…

Sorry for missing my usual Wednesday morning post, but I was out sick from work this week and couldn’t stand staring at the computer typing my life away.

So now that the madness of NaNoWriMo has been over for a week (ten days for me), what do I focus on, writing-wise? How do I move forward from a great accomplishment instead of getting stuck right here and not seeing it through? I’ll tell you how–I keep on writing.

I’ve flirted a little bit with the marriage kit book (which is almost finished), reading through a large portion of it and researching some of the holes I still need to fill. I found all the material I had written for Some College, my memoir about the year I spent in between my junior and senior year of college, and I contacted a good high school friend for his help with an area of the book that involves some things from our high school days. Going back to my high school reunion really opened that door wide for me. I’ve even started writing out some “treatments” for “scenes” in the other story I outlined before NaNoWriMo, and began trying to develop an outline for my next book in the series that this year’s NaNoWriMo book starts.

What I’ve managed to do is to stay far away from my NaNoWriMo manuscript, Delivering Justice. I’ve given myself ten days away from it, and I am chomping at the bit to start revising it. I said I wouldn’t look at it again until the 10th, but I think it’s time to get back into it. I know a few of the issues that I’ll need to address from the beginning–passive voice, weak verbs, an adverb explosion–and I’m sure I’ll discover a plethora of other problems that I’ll need to tackle, but I’m ready to dive back into it.

I spent some time on the boards for Harlequin and discovered that Delivering Justice should  be targeted toward the Intrigue line and not the Romantic Suspense line, at least from what I’ve read and been told. I’m glad, not only because the word count is lower, meaning I don’t have to find a subplot or fluff my story out of recognition, but because it means I don’t have to tone down the suspense and play up the romance as much as I initially thought. My story doesn’t have to be contorted into something unrecognizable to fit the mold, and that makes me feel even more certain that this story is exactly what it should be.

I never heard anything back from my So You Think You Can Write entry, but I’ve reworked the beginning and I think I’ve written some really good material since the opening chapter. I’m not sure exactly where the story will fit, but I would love to finish it sometime next year.

I’ve thought of at least three other books in the series DJ starts, with two possibles. Once I have eyeballs back on the story, I’ll get an excerpt up for some critique.

How’s everyone else’s writing coming along? Anyone close to submitting/publishing? Anyone revising?

XOXO,

Erica

The Ten Commandments of Editing Self-Help, Relationship Books

During the course of time that it took me to edit my father’s book, I developed many different “rules” for the editing process. Here, I attempt to share these insights and techniques with you. These are all my opinion and should not be taken as gospel. It is written specifically about the self-help genre, as this is the type of book I edited.

X. Thou shalt remove/correct typical grammar mistakes. This is a commandment of editing any type of fiction, with the exception of dialect/vernacular passages in fiction written to emulate a pattern of speech.

IX. Thou shalt be ambivalent to statistics. The interpretation of statistics, as put forward by the author, will be allowed to stand unless there is a gross error in logic or feasibility. It is not the editor’s job to posit their opinion of the spin the author puts on the data unless they are specifically asked to do so.

VIII. Thou shalt handle humor with care. Written humor can be tricky to navigate. It can be hard to convey without vocal inflection or visual clues. Therefore, it’s important to make sure that any humor present in the work is as humorous read as it is said.

VII. Thou shalt competently execute tie-ins/tie-backs to other chapters. Be sure to refer to the chapter by name when referencing it. Also, be sure to indicate whether you are reminding the reader of a concept from a previous chapter (ex. “As previously stated in “Heartbreak Hotel…”) or are introducing a concept to be expounded upon later ( ex. “This concept will be discussed in depth in “Conversations and Conversions”).

VI. Thous shalt fina a way to say the same thing a thousand different ways. Self-help jargon can get repetitive, especially as the same characteristics may be  highlighted in different chapters for different reasons. Make sure that you find effective synonyms and similar phrases to avoid using the same words over and over again.

V. Thou shalt strengthen wishy washy propositions with assertive language. No one likes to take advice from someone who sounds unsure of their own message. Wherever only one solution is offered, avoid using soft language. For example, instead of saying, “It is quite probable that all men are dogs,” say “All men are dogs.” (Of course, this is a rough example, but hopefully you get what I mean) The point is to present your solutions and ideas with conviction, support the argument, and move on as if everyone can agree with your conclusion.

IV. Thou shalt learn the basic chapter structure and flow and ensure adherence to it. For example, in my dad’s book every chapter started with a brief story that introduces the central relationship issue(s) dealth with in this chapter. He goes on to expound on the issues presenting by this brief story before giving a solution or a strategy to deal with them. One or two chapters did not offer any solutions or strategies, and I brought this to his attention. Did he want to offer solutions? Should the person seek professional help? If the purpose is to address problems in relationships, you should offer ways to address them in each chapter.

III. Thou shalt keep the voice of the author despite changes. Each author has a unique style and voice in which they write. While you are editing, it is important to do so working within the author’s unique style and voice. Otherwise, the sections you have corrected will seem out of place with the rest of the manuscript. Even if you have to tell the author what’s not working and have him or her correct it, it’s preferable to an inconsistent voice.

II. Thous shalt read at least once for enjoyment. We can get so caught up in trying to make sure that things are said clearly and the grammar is correct, we can lose sight of the story that’s being told and the advice that is being given. Make sure you read the work at least once with no aim other than to enjoy the work and try to see the author’s point of view. This helped me greatly in the editing process.

I. Thoul shalt remember this is not your book. No one should be able to see where you’ve changed and tweaked things except the author. Your job as an editor is not to write the book as you see fit, but to display the author’s work in the best light possible. You are cleaning it up, mending a few frayed edges, but it’s not your handiwork.

Do you agree with this list? Would you add anything to it?

New Books: Optimism & Disappointment

Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir at Bal...

Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir. Image via Wikipedia

I’m nearing the end of the editing process on my dad’s book, after many exchanges of emails, drafts, corrections and etc. In celebration, I went out and bought a few books, even though I have a quite a few books in the to be read pile already. I walked away with some that called for optimism, and one that turned out to be a disappointment.

First, the disappointment. I bought a book of intimate letters between lovers. What I was hoping to find were actually the letters between Simone de Beauvoir and Jean Paul Sartre, and I did find a few in this book. However, I was also hoping to find other love letters that I had heard of and perhaps find some passages I may like to quote for the marriage kit book. The problem is, this book was totally wrong for that. Most of the letters weren’t from the nineteen hundreds. Secondly, many of the letters were to mistresses and extramarital lovers, not between actual spouses, and I don’t want to promote extramarital affairs in a book about what it takes to stay married! Not only were they letters between lovers, but there was one woman who was in there writing letters to three different lovers, both male and female! She really spread the love around. Another set of lovers met because they both loved the same woman, whom one of them was married to. It is not at all suitable for the work I’m trying to create, and the letters between Simone and Jean-Paul are skimpy. *Sigh*

The second book is one I think will come in handy. It’s called Woe is I. It’s a grammar book for a grammarphobe. I’m not a grammar phobe, but I’d like to keep my editing skills sharp, and I’m one of those geeky English people who gets excited reading about subject-verb agreement and when to use that or which. I also want to acquire Eats Shoots and Leaves (this was an independent book reseller, and I didn’t see it there), which I hear is phenomenal.

The third and final book was a book that I’ve heard praised from the rafters and is being made into a movie. No, not Water for Elephants (someone already gave me a copy of that one…and it’s in the to be read  pile). This one is a little debut novel called The Help. I want this type of buzz for my debut, and I can’t wait to read it.

Even though I had to leave a copy of The Known World behind, as well as some other books I would like to own, I’m proud of my restraint, and think 2/3 I chose were really good picks. I have to find the friends of the library bookseller here. I need cheaper Harlequin’s at a good price, and I love supporting the libraries!

What’s on your to be read list? Has your writing taken presidence over reading lately? Are you researching? If so, what are you reading? Just don’t make it sound too good; I just may have to add it to an already full list of my own!

“Finished” Products

My dad is turning out to be a terrible client for my new editing venture (sorry, Dad, but it’s true). Since this is my first time on the otherside of the writer/editor divide, I’m learning a lot about why editors get so frustrated with writers sometimes. We aren’t the mean baddies that I people make us out to be.

The issue with my dad, and perhaps with a lot of writers, is that he doesn’t know how to let his work be finished. Before he sent me his manuscript, he told me he was giving it a last thorough looking over and he was done with it. I would be able to work my editing magic on it and send it back with the changes. I began reading shortly after I received the book, on my birthday. He texted the next day that he was changing the opening of one chapter to add in some things. DAD! NO! When you submit it to the editor, you are supposed to be finished–ish.

From what I have gathered about this process, through reading blogs and other helpful resources, along with reading his manuscript, is making sure the chapters are correctly organized, word choice is superior, content flows/ is structured correctly from one point to another, transitions are smooth, and there are no gaping holes in the content. The only rewriting that should need to be done is to clarify or expand where necessary. I can offer suggestions, but I’m not writing the book, merely editing. I consider myself to be a literary nurse; he’s the doctor. Apparently, he’s one of those doctors who is always interrupting the nurse as she checks vitals to do another surgery (I don’t think such doctor’s exist, but it’s possible).

I have a hard time letting a piece be finished myself. I’ve talked about that here. However, there has to come a point in time when you decide you’ve taken the piece as far as you can without another set of eyes on it to read for clarity, continuity,  fluidity, and word choice. I submit to you that the time to be finished is before you send it to an editor.

But then, maybe I’m wrong on what an editor does. Maybe I’m making this too simple or too complex. Tell me about your experiences with editors, and when you consider a piece you are working on finished. I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Genetic Bonds & Writing Magic Wands

Hefner Publications

Image via Wikipedia

My father is sending me his second book to edit and format for publication of Smashwords. I’ve read and given him suggestions on a couple of the individual chapters before, so I’m pretty well aware of the topics and subjects he’s covered. However, this will be a completely different book than those first attempts suggested.

My father started out writing a book about relationships with a Christian slant. There were, as in his previous books, Bible passages and examples used to illustrate points and make connections between the idea and the practice or application. But over time, this began to change. Hoping to appeal to a broader audience and better focus his book, my dad began to scale back on the Biblical angle. From a marketing standpoint, this was probably a good move. From a writing standpoint, it pushed his book in a new direction, necessitating rewrites and pushing his release date back from a possibly more profitable Valentine’s Day release.

I don’t know how critically taking out the Biblical emphasis changed my dad’s book (I’ll know when I read it), yet I understand why he did it. It does bring up an interesting question. What am I willing to change about my work to get it published?

This is something I’ve been pondering for a while. Always two or three steps ahead of myself, I’ve thought about my book being accepted for publication. After listening to many writers in the industry tell their stories, there’s been one step in the process that has always caused me trepidation: the editing stage. Ironically, these are the duties I’m expected to perform for my father’s book.

It’s odd to me that I can labor through writing a book, revising and rewriting my way to a “finished” product, as well as the query process, and then find myself doing further rewriting, quibbling with an editor over proposed changes. It’s hard to imagine having to change my title or switch the order of something. I know that editing is largely beneficial. It’s always good to have another set of eyes go over it. My own experience with having a teacher I respected edit my work led to a far better piece than I had initially had, even though we butted heads a bit at first. But this relationship still makes me a little queasy.

It’s a daunting prospect, editing my father’s book. My father and I have different, distinctive voices in our writing. His organization is different than how I would order things. There are probably going to be structural changes and word choices that I will disagree with. At the same time, I don’t want to translate his work into my voice–which is, I think, what scares me most about editors. This should still be his work, his creation at the end of the process.

I guess, then, that what scares me about the editing process (in the publication realm) is that I will lose the creative power I’ve had over my work up to that point. It’s the fear that I’ll have this beautiful healthy baby, and when they bring it to me after cleaning it up, it will be unrecognizable as mine. It won’t have any of the expected features like my doe in headlights brown eyes or the whimsical upward tilt of the tip of my nose. Whose book is this? Where’s my book? (Ooh, that would be a good story!…sorry, got side tracked)

So far, I haven’t had much contact with my NaNoWriYear buddy, so my issues with sharing work and editing haven’t come up. But now that I have my dad’s book being emailed to me, the question returns. Being a writer myself, I will of course be firm but gentle with his book. I will have the disposition of a parent. I will use the skill of a surgeon. I will be a fairy Godmother with a magic wand, simply allowing the opportunity for this Cinderella book to go to the ball. I can only hope my manuscripts fare as well.

The Gift of Confidence

Medieval illustration of a Christian scribe wr...

One of these days, I'll at least have a writing desk like this! Image via Wikipedia

I again sat and read the beginning of my NaNoWriMo novel (which is in need of a better working title) this past week. I was expecting to be bombarded with mistakes and plot holes, to be blindsided by changes in tense, and to find that the way I manipulated time in the story was confusing instead of opening up the possibilities of what could be done with the story. I wasn’t expecting to find much useable material.

As I sat on my floor (still need that writing desk/computer desk), editing my work in the reading mode of Microsoft Word, I was pleasantly surprised to find there were many strong points in the story. Even though I’d felt I had a good story as NaNoWriMo was underway, I expected to feel differently about the writing once the rush was over. I didn’t have an excessive amount of filler words that were written just to meet the requirements (which is probably part of the reason I fell short). It gave me a boost of confidence in my writing to see how well it’s held up to proofreading.

Even though I’d promised myself not to proofread until I actually finished a first draft, I’m glad I broke my promise. I know now that there’s a reason to continue. I didn’t do any extensive editing, just fixed a few typos and let the material stand as; I suppose this was an effort to compromise with myself over editing.

On a sad note, one of the pages of the handwritten draft is missing. It’s a page I hadn’t transcribed yet. Hopefully a good organizing of paperwork will yield the missing page. I hate when I misplace pages and have to recreate things. Either I don’t remember what is missing or I can’t recapture the magic of the moment. It’s much easier to get the jist of a thing down and craft it out of this rough material than it is to start from scratch with only a general idea of what the jist might have been.

It’s going to be easier for me to go forward with my writing goals in this new year because I’ve restored a bit of my confidence in my writing. I’ll share my writing goals with you as it gets closer to the New Year. I hope everyone finds the courage and the confidence from somewhere to continue to persevere in their writing.

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?