As a writer I sometimes find that I get caught up in a lot of things. I spend a lot of time trying to make sure I’m showing and not telling, that my characters have distinct personalities, and that my scenes have proper motivations and conflicts. While all these things are vitally important to weaving a good tale, I often forget why I do what I do. Why do I write YA? A lot is because I love it, but the part that keeps writers cranking out books comes down to one very important factor – readers.
I entered a chapter of my current WIP, KEEPER OF SHADOWS, in a contest sponsored by Freshly Squeezed Reads. Part of the contest process included a live online critique of your work by actual teenage readers, with strong teenage opinions that weren’t always what an author would want to hear. I was terrified. Like night before the SAT’s and I haven’t studied at all kind of terrified. I was laying a piece of myself on a platter for someone half way across the world to chop into tiny pieces and display on the unforgiving internet. Yup, I was practically shaking.
Now I’ve been critiqued before. Several times. Some critiques go well some not so much, but you learn a few things, pick yourself back up, and keep going. But this felt different. This wasn’t a group of other writers who were in the middle of the same slog as me. These were readers -- a target audience of strangers who didn’t know me enough to care if they broke my heart or katana sliced my dignity and resolve. In the end, this was a group of people that I as a writer rely on to open their minds to my stories and hopefully their wallets to buy my books so I can keep going.
With breath firmly hitched in my throat, I sat in front of my computer as I watched my work get reviewed and you know what – it was okay. Fortunately for me, my piece was well received and I gained some good feedback to help me make the work better. But the thing I didn’t expect was how much watching the critique reminded me of being a teenager. Of being that kid who ate through books then searched for the next one to see what new worlds and characters were out there. It reminded me that as much as I love to write, one of the main reasons I wanted to be a writer was to one day fascinate someone the way my favorite writers fascinated me. And I can tell you, watching a reader quote lines from your work is probably the coolest feeling in the world.
If you are interested in seeing the critique session you can find it at www.freshlysqueezedreads.com . I’ve also included tweets of some comments I received on my work below, in case you’re interested ;)
So what authors inspire you?