Nope. The hard part has just started. I’ll let you in on a secret, I have never written ‘The End’. Writing, for me at least, is like painting the Forth Bridge. I could tweak my words forever, and I could keep sending it out to my Critique Partners until the end of my days, if I didn’t think they’d sever all contact with me, first.
Did you spot my magic words? Critique Partners. Every writer should have them. If you haven’t got any, go and find some, now. I’ll wait. Relax. I’m joking. Not about the critique partners – you definitely need those, but good ones are hard to find, and I can’t stand around waiting for you to pull your team together.
Oops, another keyword: Team. You need a team. Aim for two or three critique partners, and as diverse as you can. People with success already under their belt, people still chasing. You don’t want too many because multiple voices and opinions chiming in on your manuscript as you write can get pretty overwhelming, but you need enough opinions to see where you have a problem, or a weak spot, or where you nailed that plot point spot on.
Your critique partners can help you as you write, by helping to shape your story and stopping you from writing yourself into a corner, but critique partners become invaluable as soon as you think you’ve finished. They are the people who will spot the fact you’re used the exact same phrase three times in the first three paragraphs, and they’ll call you on it. You will develop “Writer’s Blindness”, and don’t you shake your head at me. You will never spot half of the crazy things in your manuscript that your critique partners can. And you will smack yourself in the forehead so often you might as well get a hand print tattooed there when you read the edit comments they leave for you. As a side note, I think gremlins insert those word repeats in my documents in the night, because I know better than to write them in the first place.
Never, ever, send your writing out to an editor or to an agent without having first listened to your critique partners. Even if you don’t agree with them, consider what they say. They aren’t you, and they have at least an additional step away from your manuscript, and that distance makes all the difference. They read what the readers will read, not the error free version you think you managed to scratch onto the paper and you’re currently celebrating like you just birthed the world’s first word baby. They will tell you if you left all the good stuff in your head where you are the only one who can see it and accidentally sent them bones. Bones, people. Don’t do that. Seriously. Bones is my thing.
Here’s a plan: Write your manuscript, tweak it a little (or a lot), or have ongoing edit sessions with your critique partners a chapter at a time, step away before you make your first revision changes, edit, and then get some beta readers because, over time, even critique partners can get as close to your manuscript as you are, meaning they also stop seeing the little flaws and faults, or that area where you’ve pushed that suspension of disbelief a little too far.
The added value of critique partners is that you read their work and they read yours and *together* you learn the craft, improve and push each other forward. You build your own little team of cheerleaders for that moment when one or all of you can celebrate publication, winning that competition, or landing an agent. Their success becomes yours, and yours is theirs.
So…the end? Nah…you’re only just beginning.