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“Reality check.” | Laura Pauling

“Reality check.”

“Reality check.”  The words of Simon Cowell.

I felt really bad for this guy. It just made me appreciate my critique groups and partners.

“Just because the love is there does not mean it’s your destiny.”

“Passion does not always equal talent.”

Okay. Let’s get real. It’s not impossible for a writer to judge where they are on the road to publication. It might seem it, but the clues are there if you look for them.

1. Read published novels in your genre.

2. What are the rejection letters telling you? Are you getting form rejections? Are you getting requests for partials or fulls? It could be just a matter of revising your query, if there were no sample pages.

3. Get feedback from other writers. Find a critique partner, who is a better writer, who you can trust to read your work and give honest feedback. Honest doesn’t mean harsh. There is a gentle way to tell the truth. And we do want honesty, right? Because it’s the only way to grow. No matter how hard or discouraging it is to hear. 

I don’t want to get into the whole talent versus hardwork issue in this post. Maybe another day because I know there are some heated opinions on this subject. But I once heard an uplifting encouraging statement. (This is paraphrased.)

“There are the people who are truly gifted. They have high IQs. But that doesn’t mean they are always the most successful. A person who lands in the middle of the talent scale, can work really hard and find more success than the person born with the talent.”

So, don’t try to figure out how much talent you have in writing, or anything for that matter. It could be cross-stitching, baking stickie buns, or building structures out of popsicle sticks. Just keep working hard. Every day.

And even though it ain’t easy to see your work torn to shreds, find a critique group. With the right group, it can be the best thing you can do for your writing. It was and continues to be for me.

How has your critique group helped you? And if you don’t have one, why not?

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9 Responses to “Reality check.”

  1. Heather Kelly January 29, 2010 at 11:36 am #

    oh–I rely on my group (a series of individuals, actually) for everything. I have an Alpha who reads my rough drafts, and tells me the moment I’ve jumped the shark. He’s good. And he always sees the vision, the possibility. Then I have betas, who see the work at different stages, revision one, revision 7, etc. So, there is always someone to look at it with fresh eyes. And, critiquing someone else’s work always teaches me something about my own writing–so the benefits go both ways.

    You cannot do this without critters.

  2. Terry Lynn Johnson January 29, 2010 at 2:08 pm #

    I have one beta reader who tells me her general feeling for my ms. and I now have an awesome crit partner who gives detailed helpful hints on character and plot. I’m lucky!
    Having extra readers (that aren’t your mom who thinks everything is brilliant)is important.

  3. Tina Lee January 29, 2010 at 4:26 pm #

    Oooh, that hurts to watch.

    Critique partners are where it’s at. And alligator skin. With people who tell you the truth and the distance with which to hear it. You can do anything.

  4. Susan January 29, 2010 at 6:53 pm #

    This is why I can’t watch the beginning of idol. Don’t you feel bad for this guy?? His mom probably told him from birth that he was a star 🙂

  5. Laura January 29, 2010 at 8:01 pm #

    Hey Tina, Heather, Terri – I think more and more writers are joining crit groups and getting feedback. And I think I’m preaching to the choir – if a writer is blogging, they probably know to the benefits of people reading their stuff outside of family.

    Susan – I know. If only he’d join a critique group for singers. He would have known he wasn’t ready and he wouldn’t have gone it with such an attitude – but I think beneath his bravado is a bunch of insecurity. I feel bad too.

  6. Jon Arntson January 29, 2010 at 8:48 pm #

    Thanks for commenting on my blog (again, I am not sure if I said thanks the first few times.)

    Also, thanks for wishing me luck on my goals. It’ll be hard, because I didn’t mention one that also happens to be one of your pieces of advice today: read books in your genre. Well, I am challenging myself to read 100 books in 2010 in YA and middle grade genres. The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Prisoner’s Dilemma is next.

  7. Karen January 29, 2010 at 9:22 pm #

    Great post, Laura.

    I don’t know if I would be as far along as I am without the help of my critique group. They tell me what’s not working.

    But yeah, hard work baby. That’s where it’s at these days! This writing job ain’t for sisses. LOL.

  8. Catherine A. Winn January 30, 2010 at 1:52 am #

    Great advice. I agree with the importance of critique groups and readers who will give you honest feedback. That’s when my work began improving by leaps and bounds.

  9. Laura January 30, 2010 at 2:11 pm #

    Thanks for stopping by everyone. I don’t know if I’m up to reading 100 books – or I should say finishing 100 books. Kudos to everyone taking that challenge! And I’m so glad that you all have found good crit groups!

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