It Takes a Village
Though many wonderful authors work in isolation and use their agent or editor as first readers, for me, it takes a village to get a manuscript ready to send in. I do my best work in response to thoughtful feedback from trusted friends and often go back and rewrite great swaths of manuscript after someone's comment sparks an idea that sharpens the book's focus. I absolutely love this phase (where I am now) when I have a complete draft and can work on the big picture, looking at motivation, character arc, even the theme... stuff it's hard to focus on while the daily quota's pressing.
Today, I'd like to introduce my village and say thanks.
USA Today bestselling author Patricia Kay is my line of first defense. We exchange chapters as we complete them via e-mail. She sees the raw stuff, including all the typos (which are legion), and helps steer me away from dangerous shoals.
Then there are the members of my fabulous critique group, The Midwives (Joni Rodgers, TJ Bennett, Barbara Taylor Sissel, and Wanda Dionne). Twice a month we get together and talk books, chitchat, and then get down to the nitty-gritty. Not much gets by these women. They're Tasmanian devils when it comes to rooting out the dead flesh (there I go, with the flattery) in each member's bimonthy ten-twelve pages. But they do it with such respect and such a genuine desire to made each member's work shine that you hardly notice the gore dripping - okay, just kidding. I adore these ladies. They're all incredibly talented, and they're wonderful about giving positive feedback.
Once I'm finished a draft, I draft at least two of my critique partners. (The irreplaceable Barbara Sissel has been first full-draft reader for every book I've done in the past ten years!) And Joni's offered some amazing input that's helped me kick things up another notch.
With every pass, the manuscript gets stronger (and shorn of another round of the insidious typos), but at this point, I take one last step before passing it on to my editor. JoAnne Banker, a writer with a wonderful eye for story, is my "cold reader". She hasn't seen any pages or the synopsis, and she's not influenced by various and sundry versions of the book. She just calls 'em as she sees 'em and gives me one last chance.
Now, you'd think with allll that feedback, I'd turn in a perfect manuscript. But last of all, my brilliant editor Alicia Condon takes a crack at it and invariably comes back with insightful suggestions to improve the story even further.
Thanks so much to all of you!
So who's your village? Who do you count on to brainstorm ideas, read drafts or pages, or simply hold your hand and help you keep your sanity?
Since it's Sunday, I'll restrain myself from asking "Who's your village idiot?" ;)