L is for Listening

Artwork by Tom Torre (@CopernicusNerd)

Artwork by Tom Torre (@CopernicusNerd)

By Laura Zats

Writing is often a very solitary endeavor. However, if you’re smart, you probably have people to help you by giving you feedback.

First, there is your writing group (which everyone should have, or at least a critique partner). As fellow writers, these people can give you tips on scenes, plot progression, character development, and anything else under the developmental sun.

Once you’ve completed a MS, it’s time for beta readers (laypeople who read your work) to give you tips from the prospective of a consumer. They will tell you what they though was weird, awkward, and what they responded to emotionally.

If you’re lucky, after a few agents request some partials, you’ll get a personalized rejection or two. What these rejections do is tell you what’s working (or not) in your query letter. Rejections will also help you figure out the place your MS has in the publishing landscape.

Next, your agent (once you land one) will be FULL of ideas to make your MS tighter and more marketable from the macro level.

Once your book sells, you’ll be working with an editor, who will get deep into the nitty gritty. Their opinions are not law (well, some of the time they are), but they’ll be looking to not only improve the quality of your writing, but the quality of your storytelling and you book’s overall marketability.

All of the people in these steps will have important, helpful (and at times not so helpful) thoughts about what’s good in your book, what you should have more of, and what should never, ever see the light of day. You can’t just skip a step because you think the information you’ve gotten is “enough.” Each type of person listed here is well-versed in a different area of publishing, so they will all have unique things to say.

It’s wise to take all criticism and praise with a grain of salt. After all, it is YOUR book. However, being able to listen to people with experience and a different viewpoint from your own and then grow from it is what separates writers from god-like wordsmiths.

So listen. Listen carefully. Try things out based on suggestions and tips and tricks shared with you, and use your resources to expand your own perspective. And never stop sharing yourself.

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