I’m relieved to say that, in the year between the release of my first book (Stepping Up To Love by Katie O’Boyle) and my second book (Coming Home To Love, due out the 24th of this month), I’ve grown as a writer. The evidence made me smile a few weeks ago, when I received the first-round edits for book two. In sharp contrast to book one, my editor praised book two as “very clean copy, such an engaging story,” and she made a few dozen editing suggestions to tighten the writing style and give the story more punch.
How was that different from the first-round edits for book one, and how did I get from there to here? It’s important for me to know the answer, and I’m hoping it will help others, particularly new authors, as they work on improving their style as professional authors.
The first-round edits for my first book were humbling, to say it kindly. I thrashed about, trying to sort out how much of the feedback was a misfit between author and editor and what to do with the rest (see Staying True to Your Book). When the dust settled, I saw that most of the editor’s craft-related comments were very helpful, and I made it a point to incorporate those changes in the manuscript and in every manuscript since. They have made my writing clearer, more effective, and more professional.
But I didn’t stop there. I explored several paths to improve my writing. Each of the following made a positive impact, gave me benchmarks for progress, and were well worth the investment of time and money:
- Making full use of my local writers’ group for critiques.
- Participating in workshops that targeted my areas of weakness (sex and sensuality, for example). The best suggestions for workshops came from my online RWA chapter, Celtic Hearts, and most cost between $10 and $35.
- Bypassing the raffle baskets at our annual conference to bid on a 30-page critique from our group president, whose reputation as a tough, effective critic is well deserved.
- Entering and judging RWA-sponsored contests. (See Contest Takeaways). Very recently, my third book (Finding the Way Back To Love, due out this winter) finaled and took fourth place in The Sheila Contest (Valley Forge Romance Writers).
- Taking to heart Debby Gilbert’s recent SMP-Update suggestion to continually edit our own work. I submitted an improved version of book two just days before my editor began the first round editing process; this version incorporated feedback from beta readers, critique partners, and contest judges, as well as tips and techniques from workshops.
- Joining RWA PRO and finding a variety of critique partners. Joining PRO was a simple, one-time application process. Finding and engaging with PRO critique partners has simply required courage, time, and an open mind. This step has taken my writing to a new level and has given me confidence in my own feedback to others.
How about you? I learn so much from fellow Soul Mate Authors! What measures have helped you make progress with your writing? What do you recommend to new and seasoned authors who are eager to grow?