I’d been writing for almost a year with nothing worthwhile to show for it. My work was in a vacuum, with no craft input to speak of, and only rejections from every magazine I submitted to reinforce that I wasn’t good enough. I had self-published two short stories on Amazon, but neither of them sold much at all. Looking back they weren’t well written, and I had no idea how to promote them, so it was no surprise they didn’t sell. Still, when all your validation is negative reinforcement, it’s hard to keep putting in the time. That time is the only means to get better though, and I’d just about given up on even figuring out what I was doing wrong.
Fortunately, I’m stubborn. I kept reading, I kept writing, and I looked for some positive reinforcement. Two things changed the trajectory I was on at the time. First, I found KBoards.com, a site for Kindle readers and authors. On KBoards, I found a post by Hugh Howey, an author I’d never heard of before. And a FB post I almost didn’t answer.
The KBoards post was about how been in almost the same place I was at the time. The parts that stuck with me were when he found his tribe and when he realized he was on the right path. KBoards was that place for me at that moment. My tribe was there, doing what I was doing, maybe better than I was, but that just meant I had room to grow. Despite what were failures in my mind up until then, the path I was on was still the right one for me.
The second event right after that, was that I tried to find more of my tribe, this time on FB. I joined a lot of writers groups on FB, but didn’t feel that same connection I had before. Then I answered a post for a critique group that wanted new members. The critique group consistently tore apart the best work I sent them. They even got exasperated that I wasn’t learning from the torn apart work I’d submitted before.
The one thing they didn’t do was kick me out, or tell me to give up. So I learned. With agonizing slowness, perhaps, I fixed the things I didn’t know I needed to work on. Each critique cycle, I worked on my dialogue, the tags and the thoughts between speaking, showing versus telling, and writing visceral scenes that drew readers in and held onto them page by page. Eventually, they didn’t tear apart everything I wrote. Although I still have plenty they do tear apart, that’s what critique groups are for, in part.
So here I am today, still learning, but certain I’m on the right path and among the people who can show me the right way. I’ve also sorted my voice from all the words I’ve put on the page, and learned to listen to that voice and my instincts as I write. Otherwise, the book I’ve written would still be unfinished, and the one I’m working on now might never be done. I didn’t give up, and if you are considering the same thing, I’d beg you to reconsider. The world needs art, humans need stories, and readers need what you have to share. At the very least, I’m glad I didn’t walk away from all that.