Friday, 1 April 2016

Assessing glances

Hello and Happy Friday!

Have you written a book but not published it? Perhaps you've written a few pages or chapters. Maybe you've written more than that, maybe it's nearly complete.

Why haven't you completed it?

And if you have completed it, why haven't you published it?

You've heard me bang on about vanity publishing and the indiscriminate publishing capability offered by the internet (and some publishing houses), but that's not what I want to talk about today.

In my mind, for every one person who ePublishes their book and embarks on an expedition of shameless self promotion, there must be five, ten, even more who don't, and whose books will never see the light of day.

Hours of work, millions of words, characters and prose that no one will ever get to read because ... wait for it (big reveal coming) most writers are insular and insecure creatures.

Okay, not such a big reveal ... but seriously, many people who write, simply don't have the confidence to get their work out there.

That old chestnut: "Oh no one would ever want to read anything I've written," certainly holds true for many of us. In fact, as I've said on numerous occasions, I was one of them; terrified of anyone reading my work.

It's amazing how insecure we can be!

My first foray into writing was the result of a writing competition. I entered on a whim - and short-lived injection of self-confidence - and came first! That surprised me more than anyone, but even so, I had this novel boiling around in my head and there was no way anyone was ever going to read it!

No way on earth!

No way, that was, until Stuart, sweetheart and fearless supporter, entered an auction on my behalf. Now this was an unusual auction, held by a professional manuscript assessor in New York. To raise money for charity, she was auctioning her services - to read the first three chapters of a manuscript and give professional feedback.

Stuart won the auction and gifted me the reading service for Christmas.

So frightened was I, that it took months before I plucked up the courage to send off my first three chapters.

Those three chapters were the first 10,000 or so words of what would become Torn.

Those three chapters were returned with enough constructive criticism to prompt me to rip them from the manuscript and relegate them to the farthest corner of my hard drive.

And in that one stroke, the worst sections of my manuscript were removed. The assessment had been correct because throughout my writing of Torn, my every instinct was telling me that I'd written a pile of rubbish.

I  just didn't have the knowledge, confidence, experience, to trust my judgement. Nor did I know what to do about it. You see, the assessor also gave me great encouragement. She told me that I had a better than good story, she said it was a great story, or rather, it could be but for the fact that the start was weak.

Remove it, tighten the prose and round off the characters and I had something. That was what she told me and it was invaluable.

I did as she prescribed and then ...

Well then I sat on the story for another couple of years, wracked with another bout of insecurity.

It takes time, you know, for fledgling writers to stretch the wings and learn to fly. But in time, I did and I haven't looked back.

In the acknowledgements page in the back of Torn, I mention Stuart and give thanks to him, because it's true, without taking the steps to pay for a manuscript assessment, I would never have done it for myself and Torn and Inviolate would be as distant as the stars.

So, what is this thing about manuscript assessment? Well, it's an invaluable tool for writers that are serious about their work but need more than the gentle commentary offered by a friend or relative. It's a professional service that, for a cost, of course, offers you unbiased, literary critique.

A manuscript assessor will read part (sometimes all) of your unpublished manuscript, and offer advice, feedback and suggestions. 

Sometimes it's the only feedback you can truly trust because you've paid this person for the honesty. Unfortunately, friends and family mean well but they are not always your most honest critiques, nor do they truly know what publishers and agents are looking for.

So, here are a few that I know of that are reputable and are worth looking into:
 Another piece of advice - take their feedback on board, don't be precious about it. If you don't think you can handle the criticism don't ask for it. But if you're serious about your writing and want an honest review ... you know what to do.

Until next week - keep writing.

Oh and guess what! I mentioned last week that I had sold books at the Fed Square Book Market - I received an email during the week from a lady who had bought Torn. She said she couldn't put it down! Another happy customer!

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