I'm in the middle of visiting my sister and her Brand New Baby (doesn't get much better than that!), which is a perfect opportunity to wax nostalgic about my early writing days--and the dangers of not letting anyone except family members read your First Novel.
Looking back, it was magical. I was smack in the middle of writing the cringe-worthy YA fantasy I've mentioned before: The Seeds of Perin Faye. This was before I understood POV, before I knew what a plot arc was, before I'd written anything remotely resembling a fictional story. And in the headiness of creating my first world and falling in love with my first characters, I offered up chapters for my sister and her husband to read while they were visiting.
Actually, I offered them to my sister, but my brother-in-law is the highly-creative, let-me-be-involved type (I adore him), so he asked to read them, too. Both my sister and her husband enjoyed the chapters. I mean, for real. They weren't just being nice.
My sister doesn't do "just being nice." I think it must be genetic.
We discussed the chapters over glasses of wine. And then (here's where it gets annoying), my let-me-be-involved brother-in-law started telling me what he thought should happen next.
Yeah, that. And I was supremely annoyed. As in, "I can't believe he is trying to write my story for me." Of course, I smiled and listened. (I'm good at doing mental eyerolls instead of real ones.) But it wasn't exactly the response I wanted. Or needed.
All that aside, the worst thing about all this was how much they actually liked what they read. Not that they thought it was masterpiece material (they're intelligent humans, after all), but they got excited along with me and dove into my world as though it were a wonderful place to be.
From an encouragement standpoint, this rated high! It's what families are for, right? But from a writing standpoint, it was deadly. Because the chapters stank. And there wasn't anyone in my life to tell me that.
We all need a place of safety from which to launch our first, tentative words. But if we don't move away from that safety place into the terrifying but very necessary Real Critique From Real Writers place, we'll never become good writers.
We'll remember the sparkles in our family members' eyes and think we're terrific.
I surely do love my sister and brother-in-law, and I'm thankful for the memories of their positive response to my fledgling novel-writing attempt. But I'm also thankful that I eventually acquired enough wisdom to know that I needed Other Eyes.
(Well, okay. There was always my husband. But I tended to not listen well when he tried to tell me something stank. The irony? Agent Josh has said things along the way that Mr. A said first. So, yeah. Mr. A is crowing a little bit and I'm EATING crow.)
What about you? Has your family been a source of encouragement? Have you taken the leap and shared your work with critical-eyed colleagues?
I wouldn't trade those early experiences for anything. But I'm thankful I've moved beyond them. And I'm pretty sure my sister and her husband are thankful, too.