I found an email in my inbox yesterday, from the editor that Audible has acquired for Legion.
You know how, when you come home after a few days away, your dog runs around in circles and jumps all over you? Well, that’s how I felt. I’ve been looking forward to this for a long, long time. I am about to have my darlings savaged by a professional.
Yes, you might say, but it’s not as exciting as when you actually publish. Sure, okay, but this is still way up there. I expect to come out of the experience with a black eye, arm in a sling, and little cartoon cross-shaped bandaids all over my body. But I’ll learn. I’ll learn what a professional wants to see in a marketable work.
I’ve recently come to realize that you can only really get so far with free crit sites and volunteer beta readers. I spent some time on critiquecircle, and did private beta swaps with a couple of people. I’ve done public and group-based chapter submissions on scribophile, and participated in a couple of beta swaps. I’ve sent my first chapter into a couple of editors to get a sample edit done.
What has amazed me is the lack of consistency. Understand, I’m completely convinced that every single person I’ve interacted with has worked entirely in good faith– as have I, when critting other’s work. But it’s very hard to get a clear indication of what needs to be fixed. What one person likes, another might hate. I’ve gotten complaints both that I have too much description and too little. Some want more scene-setting, some want less. I went through several crits and beta-swaps before the Uber group crits on scribophile finally convinced me that my scenes often lack tension. Once I received that message, I was happy to go back and correct it. But before you can correct it, you have to see it. And before you can see it, you have to have it pointed out.
And this brings us to the root of my incoherent ramble (I blame the incoherence on lack of coffee. It’s early on a Saturday A.M.). When you’re starting out in writing, the learning curve is huge. As you get better, your rate of education slows down. Eventually, I think you reach a point where the informal educational tactics become ineffective for the amount of time they require. At that point, it starts to become a slog. I am very, very lucky that I’ve found myself in a situation where the next level of learnin’ is being handed to me. Along with, I expect, a thorough ass-whupping.