From Imagination To Publication

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Road Trip Wednesday: Be Honest...I Can Take It!

Road Trip Wednesday is a ‘Blog Carnival,’ where YA Highway's contributors post a weekly writing- or reading-related question that begs to be answered. In the comments, you can hop from destination to destination and get everybody's unique take on the topic.

We'd love for you to participate! Just answer the prompt on your own blog and leave a link -- or, if you prefer, you can include your answer in the comments.

This Week's Topic:
What kind of writing coach do you need? When you have to coach friends, what kind of coach are you?

I don't know where I would be without my critique partners and the three musketeers at ZOVA (Dan, Matt, and Molly). They give me the one thing every writer needs to improve their work—the truth.

Many writers are afraid to share their work because they are afraid someone will tell them that it’s terrible. They’d rather stay in the fantasy world where their manuscript is perfect and everyone loves it. I don’t blame them. I lived in that fantasy world for a while. It’s nice, but it’s lonely and confusing, as you think to yourself, “Why don’t these agents know my book is awesome?” *crickets* Oh yeah, nobody’s there to answer you!

The way I see it, the flaws in your manuscript are like food in your teeth. Do you really want a writing coach (or critique partner) who is going to look you straight in the face and let you keep talking like they don’t see it? No. You want someone who says, “Hey buddy, here’s a mirror. Take a look at what I see. You’ve got a mouth full of spinach.”

Sure you’ll feel a little embarrassed at first. I mean, you didn’t know you had food in your teeth (or flaws in your manuscript) but aren’t you glad someone told you! Otherwise, you’d just keep on going around thinking everything is fine and dandy, meanwhile everyone is staring at you like you’re some weirdo for not knowing.

Get a thick skin and welcome an honest critique. You’ll be glad you did, because in the end, your book will be that much better. Thanks to my brutally honest critique partners and amazing publisher, OPPRESSION is the best it can be. 

Remember that honest critiquing goes both ways. It's hard to tell someone that their precious manuscript needs work, but do your writer friends a favor and be the bad guy every once in a while. You better believe my critiques aren’t sugar-coated. They are real, honest, harsh, and that’s how my critique partners and I like it. It may sound a bit like an abusive relationship, but our comments are always constructive and from the heart. Being honest doesn't give you the right to be mean.

Now, that being said, we all need that vote of confidence, and at the end of the day nobody has supported me and my work like my family. Of course they are a little biased, but every writer gets knocked down, and you need someone to pick you back up. A good writing coach/critique partner is key, but a team of cheerleaders doesn’t hurt! Love you guys!

What’s the best writing advice you’ve been given? Do you have any stories about brutally honest critiques? Did a critique change the way you looked at your book? Please share!!


  1. You're right. Honesty is so important. It can hurt but it's all about making the book better. As long as it's not to tear you down it's all good in the end.

  2. OMG. I can't believe how many blogs are involved in this blog hop! I live for constructive criticism, but I've learned it's different from opinions on whether someone likes my work or not. At first that was a hard lesson to learn. Every time someone critiqued my work I felt compelled to change it to please them. Boy, that's a vicious circle. One of the best critiques I received came from a fellow Swagger, Kathy Wiechman. She beta read what was my attempt at a YA mermaid fantasy and told me I really wrote an MG novel and why. Then she busted me on a loose end and told me why she needed it tied up. And it all made perfect sense. I re-wrote the novel based on her input and I feel it is much stronger now. It's out seeking an agent at the moment, so we'll see what its future holds.

  3. Hi Jessica - thank you so much for stopping by my blog! So nice to meet you :) Congratulations on your soon-to-be-published book - it sounds terrific and exactly the kind of thing I love to read, so I'll have to get in line for a copy :) This is some blog hop - look at all those people!!!