Writing is a solitary occupation that carries the inherent danger associated with it occurring in a vacuum. That is, a first draft can be thin in some places and positively cyanosed in others. The cure is oxygen in the shape of critical readers, preferably sharp-eyed, light on praise and excruciatingly honest with their comments.
Through pure serendipity, my first editor was Katherine V. Forrest who was an unexpected blessing, even if just the thought of her reading my amateurish manuscript was mega-intimidating. Turns out, she was gracious, kind and forthright. I had to work hard to get the draft up to her standard. More importantly, she took a ‘big picture’ view that encouraged me way beyond anything I had previously contemplated – priceless insight and advice that motivates me still.
I have a handful of ‘beta readers’ – lovingly critical souls who read my work, think about the good, the bad and the ugly of it, and what they think it needs more or less of. Their thoughtful commentary is invaluable. While I may not always agree, I give every point a good airing for I learnt long ago not to be too precious about my words. It’s that ‘try again, fail again, fail better’ approach that pushes me from ‘okay’ to ‘could be better’ to ‘just about right.’
I can’t always oblige my beta readers as I have my own style that lends itself to a certain type of writing, and is less comfortable trying to be something it’s not. In the end we can only strive to be the best expression of ourselves – can’t do better than our best.