Taking your clothes off might be a daily occurrence. But how often do you do it in front of other people with whom you are not intimate?
I do it all the time.
Yep. I stand in front of groups of people and strip it all off. It's embarrassing, let me tell you. In fact, I blush. I cry. I start with the outer layers and move on to the ones closest to my skin - closer to revealing what I try to hide so often. Each article of clothing drops to the floor. I shiver under the lights that should feel warm, but they don't. Denim. Cotton. Silk. I'm revealing more and more skin. Layer after layer . . .
Until I'm standing with nothing to hide behind.
And that's it. Now how long I decide to stand there letting people gawk and admire and laugh and criticize is up to me. But at least I do it. At least I'm brave. Right?
Oh, come on! You know I'm talking about letting other people read your work. Sometimes it feels just like you're naked, doesn't it? Haven't you sent your work (querying might be a similar experience to some) out to some readers and a few days later you regret it? You think, "I shouldn't have done that. It could be so much better. Maybe I should ask for it back? Tweak here and there and send it out again? Maybe?"
I've been getting feedback on my novel, Monarch. It's a second draft. I know that in many respects, it sucks. It needs help. I took off my clothes to show the few extra pounds I'd rather were not there. I'm still standing naked, letting it all show. And it's great. I'm getting used to it, bit by bit.
(I would never really strip in public, I promise. I'd be labeled all sorts of things I'd rather not say here. . . . And I'd be arrested, but that's beside the point.)
Here's a few pointers for those of you who can't "bare" to strip down yet:
(1) If you don't let others read your work you're doing yourself a disservice. Few people can write in a vacuum. Let others who are willing read and critique your work. Often.
(2) Read Scott's excellent post from yesterday and take all that criticism in stride.
(3) Take that criticism and be honest with yourself. Rework. Write. Edit. Layer. Grow!
(4) Then send it out again. And again. Until you feel like it's solid and the critiques you get focus more on nitpicks than huge issues like plot holes and character inconsistencies.
Here's a few pointers for those of you who strip down all the time with no fear:
(1) Make sure you let your viewers - I mean readers - know where your work stands. Let them know if it's polished, a first draft, almost-there-draft, etc. This makes a difference in the kind of feedback you'll receive.
(2) Please tell your readers what kind of feedback you're looking for! You don't want a line edit when you're only looking for overall advice. That's a waste of your time and theirs.
(3) Don't overburden your readers. Seriously rework your piece before you send it to them again. They don't want to read a draft with just a few sentences changed here and there. If all you have done is changed grammar or minor things - and you think it's as polished as possible - your work might not need critiquing anymore. Save the line edits for a close beta reader who doesn't mind reading your work fifty billion times (I'm lucky to have a few of these readers. They're gold and I love them).
If you need help or have questions about where or how to find Beta and Alpha readers, see my post over on my blog, here.
On an ending note, I loved Jessica's advice over on BookEnds a few days ago about knowing when it's time to start/stop querying. She said:
I made the suggestion that authors should never even start querying until they finish their first book and have started on the second. At that point, continue querying until the second book is done and ready to go, if you still have no bites, put the first book under the bed and start querying the second while writing the third.
That's tough advice, she says. I agree. But patience is key in this business. Apparently, it helps to work naked, too. I come up with strange analogies.
Now, if only we could perfect our bodies just sitting in our chairs in front of the computer . . .
~MDA (aka Glam)