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     I recently engaged in a conversation with other authors and the topic of self promotion came up.  Several jokes were made about the various methods of self promotion that can be used to garner the most attention.  This then led to a thought provoking discussion on the quality of the attention we attract versus the quantity.

     Sure, we all want more fans.  The more fans we attract, the greater the potential for our work to be seen.  But the kind of self promotion you do can sometimes attract the wrong attention.  We all know that sex sells; the concept is thrust in our faces on a daily basis, from commercials to magazine ads to billboards.  The more scantily clad the model (male or female), the more attention the ad gets.  But how many times do we remember the half naked model more than the product they are advertising.  Sure, it will attract oglers, but does it bring in more clients?  

     Social media is a powerful marketing tool that can be used by anyone from seasoned professionals to novices.  When using social media, you need to decide what is more important to you, the number of fans or followers that you are able to amass, or the quality of those fans/followers.  This is something that I thought quite a bit about when I first started promoting my writing.  I would look at other pages and see that they were able to gain a large following relatively quickly and I would wonder what I was doing wrong.  Personally, I’m not all that great at self promotion because I hate feeling like I am bothering other people by constantly thrusting my work in their faces.  I’m a big believer in having my work speak for itself.  The trick is to find the right balance between the two.

     If all you care about is how many people are following you or subscribing to your page, etc… then you will use any means necessary to gain those followers, even employing tactics that appeal to the wrong audience.  There are even services out there that offer to direct traffic to your page, guaranteeing a boost in followers.  But how do you know that those new followers will actual be true fans?  Just because they follow you does not mean that they will take the time to read your work or learn more about you.  Is that really a good gauge of how well your work is being received?  Does it indicate to future potential fans that your work is something they would enjoy, just because you have a large number of followers?  What if those fans don’t engage or offer any honest feedback?

     On the other hand, having less fans/followers may feel like an indication that your work is not getting attention and can be hard on anyone’s ego.  But if they are true fans, they will follow you because they are interested in your work and will engage and comment on your activity.  This kind of engagement will lead them to tell others and slowly, but surely, you will gain true, productive fans.  Taking the time to focus on ensuring that you offer these fans quality work, is far more important than boosting your numbers.  Having happy, involved fans can help you grow as both an author and a brand.

     So the choice is yours.  Do you care more about the number of fans/followers you can get?  Or are you looking for your work to do the talking and attract meaningful fans that can offer productive exposure?

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     I’ve been doing this writing thing just long enough to notice that any time I encounter another writer for the first time, aside from the usual bio info exchanged, the most common question is, “What genre do you write?”  After a few of these exchanges, I quickly realized that I didn’t know the different genres as well as I thought I did. offers a nice concise list and brief definition of the different genres currently defined*.     

Nonfiction Genres


     Factual writing.  Writings that convey factual information and are not primarily works of the creative imagination.

Example: History of The American Economy (textbook)

Narrative Nonfiction

     Also referred to as creative nonfiction, literary journalism and fact based story telling, adapting some of the features of fiction (creating a narrative persona, setting scenes, presenting interesting characters, creating the look and feel of a setting, telling a story) to the purposes of journalism.

Example: Prince Harry Ending US Visit With Conn Polo Match (news article)


     Short nonfiction prose piece; an short analytic, descriptive or interpretive piece of literary or journalistic prose dealing with a specific topic, especially from a personal and unsystematic viewpoint.

Example: Boyhood Dream Came True A Czech Taxidermists Success Story (Photo Essay)


     An account of somebody’s life written or produced by another person

Example: Audrey In Rome (Audrey Hepburn’s life story as told by Lucca Dotti, Ludovica Damiani and Sciascia Gambaccini)


     An account of somebody’s life written by that person

ExampleMy Beloved World (Sonia Sotomayor’s life story as told by Sonia Sotomayor)


     The ability to speak.  The act of communicating by speaking

ExampleThe Gettysburg Address

Fiction Genres


     Literary works of imagination.  Novels and stories that describe imaginary people and events.

ExampleAdventures of Huckleberry Finn


     A serious play written for performance on stage, television or radio.  

ExampleRomeo and Juliet


    Literary works written in verse, in particular, verse writing in high quality, great beauty, emotional sincerity or intensity or profound insight.

ExampleThe Raven


     The creative power of the imagination.  Commonly uses magic and other supernatural phenomena as a primary plot element, theme or setting.

ExampleThe Princess Bride


     Writings and other material designed to make people laugh.  The quality or content of something that elicits amusement or laughter.

Example:  Sh*t My Dad Says


     A short story with a moral, especially one in which the characters are animals.  A story about supernatural, mythological or legendary characters or events.

ExampleThe Tortoise and the Hare

Fairy Tales

     A story for children about fairies or other imaginary beings and events, often containing a moral message.

ExampleSnow White

Science Fiction

     Fiction based on futuristic science.  Fiction based on science, usually set in the future, that deals with imaginary scientific and technological developments and contact with other worlds.


Short Story

     A work of prose fiction that is shorter than a novel.

ExampleThe Tell-Tale Heart

Realistic Fiction

     Resembling or simulating real life.  Interested in, concerned with or based on what is real or practical.

ExampleBecause of Winn-Dixie


     Traditional stores and explanations passed down in a community or country.

ExamplePaul Bunyan

Historical Fiction

     Narratives that take place in the past and are characterized chiefly by an imaginative reconstruction of historical events and personages.

ExampleJohnny Tremain


     Something that causes a very strong feeling of fear shock or disgust.

ExampleThe Shining

Tall Tale

     An exaggerated, unreliable story.

ExamplePecos Bill


     A story that has been passed down for generations, especially one that is presented as history but is unlikely to be true.

ExampleThe Legend of Sleepy Hollow


     An event or situation that is difficult to fully understand or explain.  Typically a detective or crime novel.

ExampleThe Adventures of Sherlock Holmes


     A group of myths belonging to a particular people or culture that tell about their ancestors, heroes, gods and other supernatural beings and history.

ExampleThe Lightning Thief

Fiction in Verse

     Full length novels with plot, subplots, themes, with major and minor characters.  The narrative is usually presented in blank verse (unrhymed poetry)

ExampleThe Cat in the Hat

     The list provided by is only the tip of the iceberg.  Within each of the genres listed above, are several subgenres that define a work of literature at a more granular level.  It is also possible for a single piece to fall into multiple categories.

     Do you have a favorite genre to write?  How about a favorite genre for reading?  Are they the same?

*Unless otherwise specified by a link, all definitions obtained from Bing Dictionary

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     I have been asked what I am currently working on, so I thought I would share with you what has been going on.  Over the last two months, I haven’t done much work on my novels.  Having offered up my first novel for a beta read and deciding not to continue working on the third novel until I finalized the first two, for fear of creating an inconsistent mess, I turned my focus to the second novel in the series.  I would sit down with a broad vision of what I wanted to happen and words would make their way onto the page as I tried to build the bridges I needed to reach my destination, but something just didn’t feel right.  Something just kept gnawing at me, preventing me from making any real progress and for the longest time, I just couldn’t quite put my finger on what it was.

     Even after getting feedback from the beta readers, I wasn’t gung-ho about getting back to work like I had hoped.  I thought that maybe I just needed to stew on the feedback and work things out mentally, but it wasn’t that simple.

Image courtey of Arthur Tress

Other than a few notes here or there, I had absolutely no drive to write and it was making me so anxious that I didn’t know what to do with myself.  So, when faced with a case of what I like to call “writer’s dunce”, I did what I usually do; I turned to reading as a means of clearing my head and gaining a fresh perspective.  After reading three novels, I still didn’t have the urge to jump back into my work and I still hadn’t pinpointed the source of the problem.  Normally, before I’ve even finished reading one novel, I’m filled with ideas and the urge to get back to work, so this was troublesome.

     In addition to reading books, I started reading critiques and discussion boards, not only on the books I was currently reading, but on others in genres similar to my own work, that I had read in the past.  Some of the discussions helped to bolster my confidence that I was doing some

things right, avoiding some of the pitfalls that caused the most grief for readers of my intended genre.  I think somewhere along the way, I subconsciously began to realize why I was having such a hard time continuing with my own work.  It wasn’t immediately apparent to me, but the more discussions I read, one by one eliminating the doubts that were clouding my thoughts, the clearer it became.  My problem, it would seem, is that I had completely lost the essence of what I was trying to achieve.  

     I had set out to write a vampire story laced with romanticism.  What I ended up with, was something altogether different; a romance novel with a vampire twist.  My main character was a watered down version of who I wanted her to be, of who she is, epitomizing the weak, dependent females so often featured in romance novels.  This was not what I had wanted at all and the further I had written into the story, the stronger this theme seemed to weave its way into my novels.


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How could I be expected to keep writing when my work was starting to get on my own nerves?  I think that somewhere deep inside, my main character was trying to tell me that I wasn’t writing her story correctly.  Sure, the events were unfolding as they should, but I hadn’t painted her in the the right light.  Vampires are meant to be hardcore; so dark that they terrify you, but at the same time beguile and intrigue you.

          Now that I have identified the problem, I need to work out how to go about fixing it.  It seems that I have quite the challenge ahead of me.

     If you are thinking of becoming a published author and have been doing your research, then you know that marketing is key.  In order to attract readers, you have to market not only your work, but yourself as well.  In this digital age, whether self publishing or going the more traditional route, authors are expected to market themselves by creating a platform.

What is a Platform?

     A platform is your tool, as an author, for creating a fan base, connecting with your target audience and making yourself visible.  It is a measurable way for publishers to gauge how large of an audience you have been able to amass and what sets you apart from other authors.  If you can show a publisher that you have a large number of people interested in your work, you are more likely to get published than an author with an unknown, unmeasurable audience.

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles /

Do I Need to Build a Platform?

     If your goal is to publish, then you will most definitely need to build a platform.  You want to be able to show a publisher that you not only have a good product (your novel) but that you already have a market to sell it to (your audience).  Foresight is key and you should begin building a platform as early as possible.  Creating a platform is not something that can be done overnight, so don’t wait until your novel is finished, edited and ready to be shopped to publishers to get started if it can be avoided.

How Do I Build a Platform?

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     A platform can be built offline, online or a combination of the two.  An offline platform is made up of public speaking, classes taught, printed media, etc…  This type of platform is the more traditional route that is slowly becoming obsolete as a sole means of marketing.  An online platform consists of social media (blogging, facebook, twitter, etc…) and a website.  With the major shift to social media over the last several years, this is the best way for an author to connect with a large audience.  Social media allows you to connect with subscribers and followers in places you may not otherwise be able to reach.  It also allows the target audience to feel more connected with you as an individual.

     Once you have built your platform, your work is not done.  It is important that you take an active role with your audience.  The more you interact with and respond to your audience the more interested they will be.  Keeping your audience’s interest is just as important as getting their attention to begin with.

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     If you’ve been following along, then you know that I submitted my first full length novel for a peer review a few weeks ago.  After a little over three weeks, I have gotten back a total of four reviews.  It was my fear that the reviews would point out such huge flaws that I would need to practically start from scratch, deterring me from writing for a bit.  At the same time, it was my hope that the reviews would give me something specific to focus on while doing my next edit.

     What I got, is something in-between.  Other than the feedback on my spelling and grammar, each and every one of the reviews focused on something different, both strengths and weaknesses.  As it stands, I seem to be in a position of “you can’t please everyone”.  The best I can do at this point is to process all of the information and feedback that I’ve received and decide what works with my overall vision of the novel and what doesn’t.  With expectations of receiving a few more reviews, I plan to hold off on the edit for a bit longer.  

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     I never expected this to be an easy journey, but the decision to become an author is not something that can be taken lightly.  It is a decision to put your heart and soul into words and share it with the world, leaving yourself vulnerable and at the mercy of anyone who reads your work.  I’m glad to see that the overall consensus so far is that I’m on the right track and while there is quite a bit of editing to do, I’ve gained another supporter or two that will help motivate me to get the work done on not only this novel, but the follow-up, which I have completed two-thirds of the first draft for.

     It feels good to be taking another step forward, albeit a baby step.  While I wait for more reviews to come in over the next two weeks or so, the plan is to revamp my website.  It’s been quite a few months since I’ve made any updates and it is long overdue.  

     When writing a novel, an author has several choices to make that have nothing to do with plot, setting or characters, the meat and potatoes for any novel, that can either make or break their work.  The article Choosing a Tense and Point of View for Your Novel by Eileen Albrizio, explores all of these choices and various ways they can be combined.  Should the story be written in first person, second person or third person point of view?  Once that is established, the author then needs to decide whether to tell the story in past, present or future tense.

Point of View

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     First person point of view is when the story is narrated by the main character.  The reader would be able to know what the main character is thinking and feeling in addition to what they are doing, but they would not have this same connection to any of the other characters.   The story is also limited to the main character’s “line of sight”, which means the author cannot explore what is happening to another character that the narrator is not in direct contact with.  This view can be identified by the use of pronouns such as “I”, “we”, or “us”.  

     Second person point of view is when the narrator explains, directly to the main character, what is happening or has happened to them.  The reader would then become the main character, being guided on what to do or how to feel by the narrator. This view can be identified by the use of the pronoun “you”. 

     Third person point of view is when the story is told by an outsider looking in.  The narrator is able to see what is happening to each character, even if the characters are unaware of what is happening to one another.  The author is able to convey the thoughts, feelings and actions of all characters, not just those of the main character.  This view can be identified by the use of pronouns such as “he”, “she” or “they”.


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     Once it has been decided what point of view to use, an author must then decide what tense the story should be told in.  As Nicole Thomas says in her article Past vs. Present Tense When Writing, the tense chosen can set the mood of the novel.  Eileen Albrizio’s article, mentioned earlier, points out that sometimes the choice in point of view will steer an author towards the use of a particular tense. 

     The use of past tense means that the narrator is already aware of everything that has or is currently transpiring.  Future events can be hinted at or foreshadowed, because the narrator already knows the final result.  Through the use of past tense, a first person narrator could describe how other characters felt at a particular point because it may be revealed to them at a later point in time.  This is the most common tense used by writers.  Why?  According to Nicole Thomas’ article, this is the way our brains are programmed to write.  We tend to reflect on events that have already occurred.

     The use of present tense means that events are unfolding at the time the reader is reading about them.  The future is unknown to both the reader and the narrator and can only be revealed as time goes on, creating a sense of camaraderie towards the main character.  Nicole Thomas advises that present tense works best when used with the first person point of view.  Does this mean that it cannot be used with any other point of view?  Absolutely not.  Eileen Albrizio’s article explains how to use present tense with the various points of view.

     The use of future tense means that events have not yet occurred; everything is about to happen.  This is a great way to create suspense, but can heavy for the reader and is best used when writing short fiction.

Decision Time

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     Now that all of the options have been explained, it is time for the author to determine the combination to use.  Is there a formula for success?  Unfortunately, there is no specific combination of point of view and tense that will determine if a novel will succeed or fail.  What works for one author, may not work for another.  And even for the same author, what works for one novel, may not work for another.  The choice is dependent on things like the author’s comfort level,  skill or intention.  There is no right or wrong choice.  The key is to remain consistent in your choice to avoid confusing the reader.

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     Last Friday, was my deadline; time for me to submit my novel for a peer review so that I can get some feedback on what I’m doing right and what I need to work on.  It is the first time I have done something like this and it is both frightening and a relief.  The plan was to stop writing for a bit, read a novel written by a fellow author to provide my own critique and to catch up on my reading list so that I don’t fall behind on my reading goal for 2013.  But as anyone who has been paying attention knows, plans and I don’t mix well.

     A series that I had attempted to write several years ago, even before my first foray into NaNoWriMo, has been gnawing at me lately.  It first started just before this year’s NaNoWriMo but I put the thought aside to focus on my NaNo project.  These last few weeks though, it has been difficult to ignore.  “You’ve ignored me long enough,” it says.  “I’ve waited quietly and patiently while you began your new series, but it is my time now,” it insists.  “Write me before you forget!” it pleads.  Refusing to be ignored any longer, it has been increasingly persistent, getting louder and louder each time and so, I can no longer push it aside.  I must give in to the story before it consumes me and I can think of absolutely nothing else. 

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     Yes, I know how that sounds.  And no, I’m not certifiably crazy; no need to call for the padded wagons, I don’t actually hear voices in my head.  But, if there is one thing I have learned over the last several months, it is that there are plenty of people out there who understand exactly what I am talking about.  Any author that has tried to ignore a story knows that you can only do so for so long before you are compelled to write it.

     Thus, began my latest project, book one of The Butterfly Stages, a four to five book series that is a coming of age story for young adults.  It will follow one girl’s journey from her last days of eighth grade to high school and finally until she reaches adulthood.  It is completely different from The Eye of the Vampire series that I have been working on for the last three or four years and it is for this reason, that I have been thinking about the use of pen names (See last week’s blog).  I’m still not sure where I stand on that, but my projects take me from one genre to the next pretty frequently so either I need to use a pen name to distinguish the different genres or I will need to do one hell of a job of marketing my novels to the right audiences.  This is where an agent and a publicist would come in handy, but I have neither of those at the moment.

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     For now, it looks like the new plan is to keep reading (always keep reading) and work on this new series until I get some feedback on Lila’s Choice.  I’m pretty sure that even after I get feedback, I won’t immediately begin editing.  Knowing myself, I will beat myself up for any shortcomings that are pointed out and not want to touch it for a while.  Eventually, I will pull up my big girl panties and get back to work, keeping the feedback in mind, but in the meantime, it’s time to set the stage.

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     For most people, our names are already chosen for us before we’re even born.  There are those few exceptions where parents wait to see their child before deciding on a name that suits them.  But for the majority, we are blindly assigned names that will identify us to the  the world for the rest of our lives.  In some cases, the given name doesn’t suit the person we grow to become.  Have you ever met someone and thought, you don’t look like a Dwayne, you look more like a Marcus so that’s what I’ll call you.  Okay, so that was a very specific example, but that actually happened to someone I know.  At times, people are so disconnected from their names that they choose to legally change it when they are older.

     Then there are those whose names suit them so perfectly, you couldn’t picture them being named anything else.  I like to think I fall into this category and because of this, I have a difficult time wrapping my head around using a pen name when I write.  It would make sense if there were already someone famous with my name and I wanted to distinguish myself.  Fortunately for me, although there are a large number of females in the world with my name, there are none so famous that they are a household name.

     Maybe it is my pride speaking, but I have been known by my name all my life and it is a part of me.  I want my work, which is also a part of me, to be associated directly with me and how can I do this using a pen name?  People that have known me at various stages in my life wouldn’t immediately think, oh, yeah, I knew her! when reading my work if it has another name on it.

     What is the meaning behind the use of pen names?  They made sense back when women used to pen their work under masculine names in order to be taken seriously.  But in this day and age, this is no longer a concern.  Do pen names still serve a purpose in today’s society?

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     Some would say yes.  In today’s society, authors use pen names to distinguish their work in various genres.  One of my favorite authors, Anne Rice, used the pen name A.N. Roquelaure to write a romance trilogy that is very different from her usual supernatural novels.  This is done quite often with authors that write across multiple genres so that their fans know what type of story they can expect.  But is this really necessary?  

     Personally speaking, I am an eclectic reader so I welcome a good story from any genre.  If I enjoy an author’s writing style, I will read their work regardless if it is a thriller from an author that typically pens romantic comedies.  My book choices depend on my mood and I would never be turned off from an author’s complete body of work just because they switch between genres; especially, as long as their signature style still comes across.

     Again, that could just be my pride talking since my eclectic reading tastes are turning into eclectic writing habits.  Given that pride is the biggest of the seven deadly sins, perhaps I should take a cue from Shakespeare’s Juliet and adopt the “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” attitude. 

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     Karen Woodard’s blog F. Scott Fitzgerald On The Price Of Being A Great Writer opened up a great discussion on whether or not writing can be taught.  And even if you can teach someone the technical skills needed to become a writer, can they be great without digging deep into their emotional well and offering up a little piece of themselves in order to connect with readers on a deeper level?

     Before answering that question, we must stop and ask ourselves, do we even want to be great writers?  Or are we content with just being good?  After all, not everyone can write timeless, classic masterpieces that can withstand the test of time.  But does this mean that there is no place for “lesser” novels in the world?  Of course not! There is an audience for everything; our job as writers is to do the work and provide readers with a choice.  The choice to do the heavy reading that the classics require, prompting us to think and feel.  Or the choice to read something light and fun, solely for entertainment purposes.  Or the choice to read a grand adventure that lets us escape the day to day monotony.  You get the idea.

One of these things just doesn’t belong here…

     Do I think that my name will ever be find a place amongst writers like Jane Austen, Emily Bronte, William Shakespeare, Jules Verne or H.G. Wells?  Absolutely not!  But, you know what,  I’m okay with that.  I’m okay with my work being a “fad” that has it’s moment in the spotlight and then fades away or only appealing to a niche market rather than the masses.  My goal is not to have everlasting fame, it is simply to write the stories that are asking me to write them and to share them with the people that want to hear them.

     My advice to fellow aspiring authors, never use another author’s work as a basis for whether or not you are good enough to pursue writing if that is what you really want to do.  Sure, you can use it as a guide to see where you might be able to improve upon certain things or to learn new tricks of the trade.  But never doubt your own worth simply because you don’t live up to someone else’s standards.  While you may not be a “great” writer and have the appeal of another author, you may find that you are a “good” writer and attract an audience all your own.  And isn’t that what it’s all about, doing our best at what we love and finding people who can appreciate our effort?

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We’ve all heard the old adage, “it takes a village to raise a child”.  Well, in my opinion, it takes a community to raise an author.  For those of you who have been following my blog (previously on Chime.In) or know me personally, you know that I’ve only been pursuing a writing career since 2010.   During that time, I have participated in three NaNoWriMo’s, one script frenzy, one Camp NaNo and started my blog. I’ve done all of this, virtually, on my own.
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This year, however, thanks to my participation in NaNoWriMo and the introduction of communities on Google+ two weeks ago, I have had the good fortune of connecting with many people, much like myself; all writers at various stages.  Either I am lucky enough to have happened upon the most supportive groups of people I have ever encountered, or writers as a whole are a welcoming community.  More and more, I find myself believing the latter to be very true.

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In all my research on how to become a published author, one thing I found time and time again is that this is not something you can do alone.  Many successful authors credit their success to their support systems (family, friends, fellow writers , editors, agents and/or publishers) that helped keep them motivated and provided insightful critique on their WIP.  True, anyone can self-publish a book, we’ve all see the market flooded with poorly edited books, but if the intent is to make this a career, it will take much more polishing to achieve that goal.

I haven’t had any of the support aforementioned.  By nature, I am a very introverted person and I did not see myself going out into the world to find other writers to befriend.  How would I even know if someone was a writer without first engaging in conversation (something I don’t typically do with complete strangers)?  So, it seems the world came to me, in the form of community invitations!  And thanks to the kindness and support of these amazing people, I no longer feel alone in my journey.  Everyone is so full of enthusiasm and eager to lend a helping hand.  We all understand each others’ plight because we have all either been there or are there and rather than climbing over each other on the way to the top, we have extended a helping hand to our fellow authors in need.

This is not to say that they praise the work I have shared as being perfect, because let’s be honest, I have a long way to go before I get to where I want to be.  But rather than tearing my work to pieces (striking tremendous blows to my ego) or offering accolades (falsely boosting my ego), they not only point out what needs work and offer their suggestions on how it can be improved, they also highlight the good letting me know where my strengths lie.  I’m sure many of us have had that English/writing teacher that would give us a bad grade but never explain what we did wrong,  what we could do to improve or even what we did well.  This type of feedback only leads us to continue making the same errors time and time again, getting absolutely nothing out of the class and not providing us with the opportunity to grow in our craft.

Photo Credit: greyerbaby (

It is because of the kindness, support and encouragement received from the communities that my eagerness to write has increased, leaving less room for doubt and excuses.  I’ll admit that after sharing the first chapter of my novel and finally getting some real, constructive critiques, I wanted to cry.  Not because they told me it was horrible and I should never write another word again, but because my novel has become my baby and no one ever wants to hear that their baby isn’t beautiful and perfect just the way they are.  After allowing myself a moment of self pity, I pulled myself together, absorbed the feedback and am now hard at work editing the novel so that I can improve and share it with one of my communities.  I am both nervous and excited to get their feedback.  It will be my first real experience with putting my work on the “chopping block” so to speak.

If I’m really serious about becoming an author, then I’m going to need to toughen up and grow a thick skin; throwing my insecurities out the window and opening myself up to both the positive and negative.  What better way to start than with my own peers, people who understand the complex journey I am on and who are able to provide advice based on their own personal experiences on a similar journey?