"happy birthday to me. . ."

As the clock struck twelve last night, I sat in bed, lights off, hunched over my laptop at the behest of a fine writer over at AbsoluteWrite ( http://absolutewrite.com/forums/index.php ) who is struggling with her WIP. She’d sent the thing to betas and received conflicting feedback, which has caused her much distress. She asked if I would share with her my beta experiences relative to CHERRY; seeking from me answers to questions she wasn’t even sure how to ask . . . but she did her best, and so did I.

And so, in the early hours of my birthday, I sat in the dark, deconstructing CHERRY.

I wrote CHERRY quickly, as I had my first three novels. The story came to me in a flash, nearly intact, so odd, but I knew the thing from beginning to end, and wrote it, and knew it was good. And thought it was done.

It was good, but it wasn’t done.

That realization came to me when I read the critique from my first beta reader. This person and I had started off on the wrong foot over at aye-dub, due to my impatience and arrogance. But I apologized and he gave me a chance, even offering to read CHERRY for me when I was ready. After that rocky start, he and I developed a good report. I critiqued some of his work. I realized he was a thoughtful, insightful writer, and a good one. He was honest and I trusted him.

I sent my manuscript as a word file to this person, sent it half-way across the world. He read my novel and proclaimed it good, but not good enough. But, he said, it could be. I had to decide if I wanted to take it to the next level. He thought it was worth the effort. He thought I could do it.

His critique was a compilation of impressions he’d had whilst reading my novel, then thinking about it afterwards. He offered nothing specific, no specific suggestions as to how to fix my book. Didn’t matter. I knew what he was saying: to make CHERRY better, I would have to rework it big time. Rewrite. Cut. Add whole chapters, my God, revamp the thing and I thought it was done. I wanted it done. Dammit.

But this person believed CHERRY was worth the effort, and after I ceased the weeping and gnashing of teeth, I reread CHERRY with his comments in mind, and came to the same conclusion.

He was but the first of a string of betas–all bright, insightful people; good writers, honest–who echoed that man’s belief: CHERRY was decent but could be more than that. My final beta reader, another amazing person from AW, challenged me to dig deeper, take my main character to a place I was hesitant to go. He recognized my hesitation before I did, called me on it, told me I had a choice: make my mc a richer, deeper character, or leave him as is. How far was I willing to take this character?

Ultimately, I reworked my ms yet again. When I finally proclaimed CHERRY done, I felt a sense of awe and pride, and still do. I believe I’ve written something of value, I truly think I have. I couldn’t have done it without those people who helped me so selflessly. I wouldn’t have done it, I know it. These people had confidence in CHERRY and in me, when I had neither.

I am blessed and truly grateful to the people who helped me, who believed in me. I shall do my best to return the favor in kind, as I tried to last night, in those wee first hours of my birthday. And on my birthday, I’m thinking of those special people, and thanking them, and wishing them every good thing.

With a cherry on top, of course.

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4 thoughts on “"happy birthday to me. . ."

  1. Happy birthday, kkellie!This is a really nice post. I have some idea of what you mean (although I don't have anything "ready" yet); my writing had greatly improved before going back to school because of all those horrible, gut-wrenching critiques to which I subjected my work. It was well worth it.

  2. Thank you for wishing me a happy birthday! You know, thinking about this post. . . we aspire, and for others to give of themselves to help us get there is. . . I don't know. It's a gift, it really is.

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