Of course Margie Lawson, writing coach extraordinaire, did not tell me I sucked. But she did finally agree with something I said about my own writing.
Let me paint the picture.
We’re in France—yes, France—in the Spring of 2017 for a Cruising Writers event at a gorgeous chateau surrounded by vineyards and settled on a comfortable couch on the patio for my one-on-one appointment with her.
As usual, Margie goes through my pages with sharp observations, pointing out improvements I’ve made, ways to strengthen my writing power and lean into my penchant for humor, and providing notes that I will refer to later when I get to editing based on her insight.
She pauses at yet another poorly phrased body language description, and I say aloud, “I know, I suck at body language.”
Margie: No, you don’t. You just need to rework this.
Me: No, really. It’s okay. I know I suck at body language.
Margie: No, no, no.
She waves away my self-deprecation and continues on. This happens a few more times. I kid you not. Until finally, finally, she stops, looks over at me, and says, “You’re right. You do suck at body language.”
I always remember this moment with a huge smile.
First of all, it demonstrated a deeper level of friendship I’d reached with Margie Lawson. She would never have said that to me earlier on, nor without my pushing for it. (She’s far too positive and encouraging for that!) However, we had developed a such camaraderie by then that she knew she could tell me the truth and we’d remain close.
Having your critique come from a dear friend makes the pricks feel more like kisses. It takes time to develop a friendship like that, but I also have one with my critique partner—a fellow Immersion grad.
Second, it showed that I had learned my strengths and weaknesses. I hadn’t corrected all of them, but I had made a lot of progress and knew what I yet needed to work on.
A good author is always learning. Always. We’ve never arrived at perfection, but recognizing where we have the most room for improvement helps us focus our efforts.
Third, it indicated that I had grown a thicker skin for critique. Early on, you want to know what a coach, critique group, or editor thinks of your writing, but maybe not too much right away. Maybe in snippets, punctuated in between with doses of chocolate.
Yet, what anyone who has taken a class from Margie Lawson, or any of the lovely offerings here on the site, knows is that in-depth, quality critique is invaluable. You cannot become your best writing self without exposing your flaws and learning how to correct them.
Finally, it tickled my funny bone. That moment itself was like a scene from a novel. There was the setup of discovering my fatal writing flaw, a mild buildup of tension as I insisted I sucked at something while Margie tried to dissuade me, and then finally a release of tension as she agreed with me in such a way that a reader would laugh with us.
Even as it happened, I could envision how the scene of us reading the scene would unfold. And how amusing it would be to retell the story.
You may be—probably are—a fantastic writer, but there’s still some small issue that gives you trouble. It’s where you could and should focus your attention to improve your craft! Knowing that weakness is a huge step forward in your writing development.
But you know what? Once you fix that issue, you’ll likely become aware of another one...and then another one…and another. Like I said, we’re always learning.
Recognizing the need to continue learning, to have honest and helpful critique, and to tap into the resources that can provide that shows that you’re a better writer than you used to be. And will only get better from here.
Oh, and if you’re wondering: Yes, I worked on my body language phrases and can say with certainty that I no longer suck. (Margie would be proud.) My scene descriptions, though…
Julie Glover is an award-winning author of young adult and mystery fiction. Her debut Sharing Hunter placed in several contests, including the much-touted RWA® Golden Heart® YA. Her follow-up, Daring Charlotte, also a repeat contest finalist, releases later this year. She has also co-authored four supernatural suspense novels and a short story in the Muse Island series under her pen name Jules Lynn. She is represented by Louise Fury of The Bent Agency.
Julie holds a master’s degree in counseling, has taught conference workshops and online courses, and served as a host of the Writers in the Storm blog, a top 100 website for writers, for three years. In addition, she has served as sidekick and substitute host for Cruising Writers, an incomparable at-sea writers’ experience, since 2015.
She lives in Texas with her hottie husband, her loquacious cat, and her large collection of cowgirl boots.
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