This is the story of a successful author.
Once upon a time, a woman decided to write a novel. Day and night, she dedicated herself to the task, skipping parties and meals, rising early and retiring late in order to get another thousand words on the page. She thought about her story all the time, dreamed about her hero and heroine, called her children by her characters’ names, ate, drank, and breathed her story. Finally, a few months, maybe a year or more, down the road, she had a finished product. She sent it to her mom, who loved it. Then, with a spark of hope and a dream of publication, she submitted it for a critique. And her critique partner … was honest.
The book wasn’t good.
“I’m a talentless hack!” declared the woman. She slammed her laptop closed, grabbed the box of Oreos, and plopped herself on the couch for a Mad Men marathon.
Days, perhaps weeks later, she opened the critiqued document from her so-called partner and re-read the comments and suggestions. Grudgingly, she admitted that the woman might have been right about one thing, maybe two. She spent some time editing her novel, making it better, thanks to the input from her partner. Slowly, gently, she made changes and learned from them.
When she was finished, she sent it to her critique partner again. This time when her baby came back dripping in red, our author didn’t slam her laptop, and she only ate a single Oreo. Okay, a single sleeve of Oreos. And she made the changes. And the book was better.
She edited that first book more times than she can remember, and then she put it aside and started the next one. She poured herself into it, let her mom read it and enjoyed the gushing praise, and then sent it to her critique partner.
When she received the first critique, she opened it, already cringing. The document was still dripping in red … but there were fewer red marks. And the marks were on different kinds of mistakes. She made the changes, improved the book, and sent it again.
It was getting better.
So was she.
The second book wasn’t destined to be a bestseller, but it was an improvement. And the third was even better than that. In the process, our writer learned that great writers aren’t born. They’re conceived after hours and hours of hard labor—and lots of Oreos.
The more our friend writes, the harder she realizes writing is, and the more she learns. Yes, time passes. She gets older, wiser, and better, and after awhile, she gets a contract (or self-publishes a great book) And then she’s the critique partner encouraging others on this walk.
This is the story of a lot of writers. As an author, an editor, and a critique partner, I’ve seen this story played out so many times in so many different ways. What separates the great writer from the hack is not the quality of the first manuscript, it’s the time spent improving it. It’s the teachable spirit that gets us off the couch—Oreos or not—and back to the computer to make the changes and learn and be better.
Talent is just the first ingredient. It’s the decision to keep at it, to rewrite and learn and grow, that separates the hack from the true author.
Robin Patchen lives in Edmond, Oklahoma, with her husband and three teenagers. Her third book, Finding Amanda, released in April. When Robin isn’t writing or caring for her family, she works as a freelance editor at Robin’s Red Pen, where she specializes in Christian fiction. Read excerpts and find out more at her website, robinpatchen.com.
Finding Amanda links
My website: http://robinpatchen.com/
Robin’s Red Pen: https://robinsredpen.wordpress.com/
Finding Amanda Back Cover Copy
Chef and popular blogger Amanda Johnson hopes publishing her memoir will provide healing and justice. Her estranged husband, contractor and veteran soldier Mark Johnson, tries to talk her out of it, fearing the psychiatrist who seduced her when she was a teen might return to silence her.
But Amanda doesn’t need advice, certainly not from her judgmental soon-to-be ex-husband. Her overconfidence makes her vulnerable when she travels out of town and runs into the abuser from her past. A kind stranger comes to her rescue and offers her protection.
Now Mark must safeguard his wife both from the fiend who threatens her life and from the stranger who threatens their marriage.