About eight months ago, I joined an online women's fiction critique group. Once a month, a member submits their work and the rest of us read and give feedback. The polite and proper thing to do is to return that favor and critique those kind souls who have given your work a read.
I'm trying to do the polite and proper thing but it takes up a lot of time. The good news is I finally figured out how to get the word documents on to my Kindle Fire so that makes the reading easier and I'm more mobile ... not chained to the Word application on my computer.
So, I just finished my critique that's not due until May 6th, AND just emailed my thoughts on a swap read with another woman in the group. I was fully committed to reading over the last few days (when I wasn't binge watching "Last Tango in Halifax." I may have a bit of a British TV addiction. Don't judge.)
I'm also half the way through "The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper" ... a novel of an elderly English gentleman who finds a charm bracelet belonging to his late wife and discovers each charm has a story that reveals much about her he didn't know. After that, I'm dying to read "Jane Steele." I peeked at the first chapter and it has its hooks in me already. A woman has committed a murder and she has a deep affinity for the title character in "Jane Eyre" (a novel I read once a year).
I also ordered "As I Lay Dying," as an attempt to get my feet wet in the waters of William Faulkner. My granddad was a big fan of Faulkner and I'm embarrassed to say I've never read him. Rumour has it he's damned hard to wade through but worth it in the end, so after googling "what's the best Faulkner to start with", I feel ready to push forward.
But for today, I'm putting the reading aside to concentrate on what I really love ... the writing. I simply can't write when someone else's voice is in my head. Now that the weather is nicer, I think I'll take a bike ride on the trail beside the Yellow River. If I forego my headphones, I can think about the book as I pedal. It's a nice palette cleanser for my brain, as it were. I can flush out those other voices and be ready to write when I get back home.
It's funny ... you tell some folks you've written a book and they immediately assume they can run out to Barnes and Noble to pick up a copy. What they don't realize, and what I'm learning, is that the writing is the easy/fun bit. The rest is an exhausting process of editing, rewriting, querying, rejection, more querying, conferences, feedback, and then if you're lucky, an agent, and then if you're really lucky, a publisher ... and then a new round of edits/rewrites/feedback.
I know it's a business. I get that. I write because I've discovered what so many before me knew -- you write because you love it. Would I like to be published ... give readings ... go 'round to signings? You betcha. But Anne Lamont told me in her book "Bird by Bird", that you better do this because you love it, because you're never going to be published and you're never going to make money at it. Harsh words, perhaps, but it just means anything good that happens is gravy. If you love something, I don't think you can ever go wrong. In fact, it's the best reason I can think of for trying to get this right.