Thursday, April 30, 2009

Take It All Off

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.

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)


  1. I do it so much, I don't even care who sees me naked.

    Criticism hurts, but I think it is the only way to grow as a writer.

    The key is to distinguish those who want to help you grow from those who don't care or worse. I used to exchange critiques with a writer whose backhanded compliments started to hurt--for real. Not a healthy relationship. So I got dressed really fast.

    I need to re-read this post and the one below when I have a bit more time. Excellent posts.

  2. Thanks for the post, Lady Glamis.

    Naked?? Seriously? Can I lose just a few more pounds first?

    I was beyond nervous, and had my share of regrets, the first time I released my baby into the world of beta readers. I was also anxious for feedback. Luckily, I survived the experience.

    There's nothing worse/better than getting the feedback necessary to hone your book into the best possible book . . . EVER.

    I agree with Ania - you really need to "distinguis those who want to help you grom from those who don't care or worse". I had a really bad experience where a critter was ripping my work to shreds. I finally asked why and they were like "Oh, I hate epic fantasy!" Uh, then why the heck are you critting epic fantasy was my silent (okay, not so silent, the dogs and cats learned some new vocabulary that day) response to myself, not to her. Like Ania, I immediately got dressed.

    Thanks again for the post.


  3. What a great post. And, yes, I knew you were talking books, but was so curious when you'd fess up to it.

    For me, it's not just the writing that I consider embarrassing at times. It's when people reading your work try to make it non-fiction, when it's fiction with a whole lot of your heart thrown in.

    How do you convince people that the heroine isn't you. It's just a story and she happens to have bad knees like you, but nothing else about her is you? I find people are always trying to put the author as the hero or heroine, and the story as real life, but it's NOT. That's the scary part of writing for me.

  4. LOL Great post, LG! Very, very true. Also, Jessica's advice is right.
    I've read your first chapters and don't think they sucked. They're pretty interesting, I think.

  5. It took me a very long time to shed my first layer of clothes, and for that shove, all the credit goes to a dear friend who introduced me to the blogging world.

    I still shudder at the thought of removing another layer, but with time and coaxing from those closest to me, it does finally happen.

    Thank you for the wonderful advice. Your blog and I believe this one as well, will help me to nudge my way forward.

  6. *grin*

    Very nice, Glam. I like the advice you give to those on both sides of the camp. Feedback is very vital to making the manuscript as polished as possible. It's always nice to have an extra set of eyes, or ten. :D

  7. It's funny how much easier it gets to take it all off. I still feel weird, but I'm willing to accept it and do it, even with the imperfections.

    Nice post, Michelle!

  8. Wait, so The Literary Lab has become a nudist colony? Hmm, very well. I request Scott's photos get removed. Ha ha. Kidding, ya old coot!

    Now to business (ahem):

    While I understand the value in Jessica's advice (I revised my first book to pieces for naught), I cannot fully comply; my novels mean a lot to me, so throwing one under my bed is inconceivable! Instead, I'm moving my first novel to number four in the series and soon I shall begin working on the (new) first book in the series. In fact, I need to draw the ocean currents for my world now. Later.

    By the way, thanks for throwing in a pun. It brightens the day!

    Simile for Davin: Like a pig, I dove at the pig's feet.

  9. That was a great post. I think it's so important for new writers to have some kind of feedback. It was so long before I had enough courage to show my stories to other people and you're right, I was doing myself a disservice! There are many things I could have improved earlier or learned quicker if I'd gotten over my own fears and "took it all off."

  10. This is a great post. I really like criticism actually, because I have this great fear that I'm way off base with my writing. More successess with my writing will probably cure that, but until then, I'll gladly take some constructive criticism.

  11. Ania:Yeah, I think it'll get to the point that I don't care who sees me naked, either. And I also feel that criticism really is the only way to grow. Painful as it is.

    Scott:Oh, yes, so that is so important! Even if I'm reading a genre I don't normally read, I would never rip it apart because I hate the genre. If I felt the inclination to do so, I'd warn the writer...

    I know, a few more pounds off for me would be great, too.

    Eileen:That is such a good point! I don't have any characters that are all me. That would be too hard to write at this point in my life. I understand exactly what you mean - how that is frustrating.

    Jessica:Well, thank you, that lifts me up. I know they don't really suck - but they do suck in comparison to what I know they can be. If that makes sense.

    Suz:You have started! I loved the memoir you put up. That was a great step to take!

    Dani:Yeah, ten can be intimidating, but really helpful!

    PJ:So, my question to you is this: Do you feel like you are ALWAYS naked now because your book is in print and accessible?

    Justus:*gathers clothes and hides self*

    Yeah, nudist colony. Whoops! Forgot to tell everybody that's what we're REALLY doing over here, LOL!

    I agree. It would be almost impossible for me to shove a book under the bed. It's too close... but maybe that's the problem I have. When I detach myself it gets easier to see what needs to change. But still, it would take an awful lot for me to shove something under the bed!

    Cindy:Yeah, that was my intent in doing this post. I hope to give new writers an extra push into the direction of sharing their work. It is one of the only ways to grow as a writer, I think. Good constructive feedback - and being brave enough to make the changes from that.

    Eric:I agree. Feedback can get addicting. I always need confirmation that I'm going in the right direction.

  12. I think it's more like I'm at the Bahamas wearing my bathing suit realizing my layer of fat is hanging over but accepting that if I worry about it the whole time I'll have no fun at all and also looking around and seeing that almost every other person there has a roll of fat hanging off somewhere also. So I might as well accept it as it is and enjoy my time.
    Plus I can always lose weight in the future and head back to the beach looking kick-ass.
    Really, all that did relate to my book, not my weight :)

  13. Nudist,

    Just because I love a book doesn't mean I'm unable to stand back and say, "This books sucks, as is. Time to get to work." Also...I hope you realize your shirt is made in Sri Lanka.

  14. Well, shoot, Justus, I'd better take a closer look at my clothes....

    PJ, yeah, I have rolls all over the place. I don't even own a bikini yet. Is that what you get when you get published? LOL.

  15. I thought the title meant we had to get naked to read the post...

    This chair is kind of cold.

    And from now on when you send me stuff to critique, I will picture you stripping down before giving me the manuscript.

    I'm not sure how I feel about that. :P

  16. Excellent post, Lady Glamis.

    I am still nervous when I have to remove a layer. But the truth is, the more you do it, the easier it gets. And I so agree with Eileen about how much harder it is to show your book to others when there is a lot about yourself in it. That's exactly what I am going through right now. Although my second novel (the one I am editing now) is fiction, a lot is based on personal experiences. It is so obvious, that even the ones who don't know me much would recognize the similarities. But NOT everything in there is me. Actually, the whole plot is fictitious. But still, it's hard to show yourself just like that, totally naked.

    BTW, I loved the post, not only because of its content, but also the photo and the whole presentation. It looked so professional. This site is becoming the N.1 professional writer's blog. Way to go!

  17. Eileen,
    Yes, people assuming that you and your protagonist are the same person will be a constant problem. For me, it's just amusing. I get a kick out of it, and it doesn't bother me at all. It's also funny that I can write ten stories from the point of view of a ninety year old woman, and then as soon as I write one about a younger man, everyone suddenly thinks it's a biography.

    Justus, best simile ever. :)

    I totally agree that sending out your work is crucial. Actually, one of the most important insights I made on my own writing happened after I sent out my first short story but before I heard back from the editor. For the first time, I was calling something done, and for the first time I imagined how an outside reader would experience my work. That gave me a new sort of sensitivity I didn't have before.

  18. Krisz,
    Yes, indeed, Michelle is a genius at presentation. Her solo blog is also exquisite.

  19. Boy, this is a very visually pretty blog. I wanted to just grab a cup of tea and look at the header for five minutes!

    Great post. It's very hard getting criticism. It's like trying on bathing suits...and that's a nightmare!

  20. *whistles at the Glammeister* Yeah, Baby!


    I have had a hard time opening up and letting people read my stuff. It's hard to be that bare in front of others. I have someone big reading the beginning of my wip tomorrow. I've been sending it around to my betas and (for the first time) to my husband to read. I have to say that I was more nervous for him to read than actually being naked.

    Criticism is one of the hardest things to take and give well. I think we have to be open and vulnerable to do it, and that is tough when our natural tendency is to protect ourselves.

    Anyone feel inclined to read a couple chapters of YA? *displays ankle provocatively*

  21. What a fun, creative post! You guys are hitting them out of the park over her at the Literary Lab! Two home runs in two days! Now the pressure is on! :)

    I loved all of your tips! Thanks!

  22. Fantastic advice ... great post!!

  23. Love the analogy. We all wish we could be the ones standing there tossing off the clothes with ease. It gets easier, but I still have that moment of fear with each person I share my work with. Luckily, I've had some wonderful beta readers thus far.

  24. True! True! And it reminds me of a joke I heard once from a commedianne (though I can't recall her name)

    Along the lines of..."I was getting intimate w/ my husband and asked him to turn off the light. He said, 'Oh, baby, you are so beautiful..don't worry about the light'. I said, 'You think it's ME I don't want to see?"

    Heee Heee.

  25. *snickers at agent advice*

    Current novel count? I don't even know anymore. This isn't Novel #1 by a long shot though. But, when I do query, I'll go work on polishing something else. I'm tantalized by the thought.

    I like the stripping analogy. :o)

  26. Great work! And so true...I remember my first critiques. I think I'd rather have been a stripper!! But things are much more comfortable on that front now for me. I seek criticism out instead of shy away from it.

  27. I'm lucky that I've had a good, critical reader for about two decades, and when she is unimpressed with my work, it's harder to take than any other negative feedback (because she's always so spot-on and I ignore my own advice to not argue with criticism because, well, because she's so spot-on that it hurts).

    Still, naked is a good analogy for making yourself vulnerable and asking someone to read your work. We all say we want honest feedback, but I at least want more than anything to be honestly told that I'm a brilliant writer!

  28. Great advice. I'm not afraid to be "naked" every once in a while (as long as its been done tastefully). Ha ha. Metaphors are fun.

  29. Becca:I'm not sure how I feel about that either...

    Krisz:Yeah, reading your comment made me think that if we were really putting that much of ourselves into our characters, we'd be writing a biography, not fiction.

    Glad you liked the post. I appreciate your comment a lot.

    Jill:*cringes at thoughts of trying on bathing suits*

    Yep, getting hard feedback is kind a like that... painful but necessary if you want to swim in the pool.

    Lois:Hahaha! I think we're past the ankles being seductive. Maybe...

    I wish you all the luck with that read tomorrow. I know he'll give you some great feedback.

    Jody:Yep, Davin's got his work cut out for him! He's tomorrow. :)

    Kelly:Thank you! Glad you stopped by.

    Joyce:That is very lucky. Keep them like gold!

    Tess:Oh, gosh, my sides hurt from laughing! That's hilarious. Hehehe.

    Liana:Yeah, well, I know you'll never run out of things to work on. *wink*

    Beth:I am the same way. Somehow it's just helpful now instead of so much uncomfortable. I just brace myself for the pain of it because I know it's helpful.

    Scott:Well, you nailed that one. I agree. People just need to tell me I'm perfect and brilliant all the time. I'm afraid it wouldn't help me get published, though.

    So glad you have somebody who gives you good, honest feedback. It is invaluable.

    Mariah:I agree. Tasteful is good. It was a metaphor I just couldn't resist!

  30. It is definitely tough. I think you have to be ready to let it go...starting with people you trust. It MUST be done! :-)

  31. Traci, I agree! And I'm so happy you trust me enough to let me read your book. :)

  32. Jody, I DON'T appreciate the pressure! Isn't it enough that I'm a good person?

  33. Michelle, Thank you for trusting me to read yours! ;-)

    Lois...let me know if you need a reader!

  34. Whew! I had to look to make sure I was at The Literary Lab.:) Great post and YOU know I want to let 'em at my work! BTW, thanks again for help with my first page. I'm really making it MUCH better! Thanks to your help! Nice to have friends! :)

  35. Great, great post. I've been there. And what's even harder, I think, is reading your own work to an audience. I've only done it a couple times and I now think I would rather go to the dentist. :) I'll check out the links in this post.

  36. Having a baby cured me of a lot of inhibitions, and scary as it is to be critiqued, we always come out better for it. I'm going to have to try working naked.

  37. Yup. Stripping naked is probably easier than sending out an ms for crit. But I do think it gets easier the more one does it, and the more one learns to be objective about their work.

  38. Yes, I admittedly have a difficult time letting people review my work. I need to be more proactive in finding a beta or an alpha or just a grocery store in general.

  39. Traci:You're welcome. I am so glad you took the time to read it.

    Robyn:I'm so happy I could help! Yeah, weird post. Glad you didn't click out of here when you realized it was a nudist colony. *quiet snickers*

    Scobberlotcher:Some online name you got there! I love it. Well, yes, it's even harder to read your work out loud and watch reactions. The dentist is much better, I agree.

    Sherrie:Yes, we do come out better if we're willing to change. Yep, working naked is fun, if not daunting, LOL.

    Ann:Being objective is KEY. I agree, and it is hard. That needs a post all its own!

    T, Anne:You mean finding a beta or alpha AT the grocery store? Wow, that would be fun, if not very intimidating. And something I could never do. Or maybe you just meant find a grocery store? LOL. :)

  40. Excellent correlation. I completely understand how unnerving and paralyzing it can be.

    The submission of writing, that is. ;)

  41. Janna:LOL. Yep. It's a tough business. I think both would be. Hehehe.

  42. I love this post!

    As you know I have a hard time getting naked! But you're right it is totally worth it! But then I had excellent beta readers who were helpful and encouraging :)

  43. Alexa:I love helping you anytime you need, since you are always willing to return the favor. Thank you!

  44. I'm having a couple pages critiqued by other writers (in-the-flesh, but not naked flesh) tomorrow, which I'm a little nervous about. It will be my first real critique by other yea! Good advice. It came at a good time for me...even though it was a little risque. :)

  45. Jessie:If it's all in the name of art and progress, strip it off!

    (this metaphor is too much fun)

  46. Great post and analogy. I'm now working on memoir and talk about feeling naked.

  47. Travis:You are a brave, brave man to do that! I'm afraid I have nothing interesting to write about in a memoir. It's not interesting to me, I guess. :)

    Thanks for your comment!

  48. After the first few times, it's not that bad. And then you sort of start to crave it... the feedback, the affirmations, even the corrections and rebukes. Hmmm. Maybe that's not a good thing!
    Great post. Thank you.

  49. Niki:It's just addicting, like most things about writing, LOL. Thanks for stopping by!


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.