Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Simple things

I've had this song in my mind on and off for about a month:

It reminds me that simple things are often overlooked, but can be very significant.  A smile, a sincere thank you, feedback, a listening ear. 

For a writer, receiving a detailed review is the best present.  I've been giving and receiving a lot of reviews recently on where I posted several chapters of my novels in progress.  The joy of giving is almost as great as the joy of receiving, if not more.  Best of all, it doesn't cost anything.  Sometimes a single review, received on a particular day, can turn things around in a dramatic way.

A review is a double-sided sword.  It can give a writer that little push needed to keep writing or it can destroy a writer's confidence.  I posted the first two chapters of my YA novel for people to review and received several reviews, some of them making me feel like tearing my chapters apart and starting all over.  The reviews came from experienced writers that seemed to know so much more than I did.  I started doubting not only about my writing skills, but also about my reviewing skills.  What do I know about writing?  Are my reviews useful to anyone?  How can I comment on stories written by writers who know so much more than I do?  I never had a class on creative writing.  I learned on my own, with books and writing exercises.  How can I compare with English literature college graduates?

That's when I decided to post the same chapters in a review forum on the same site, Young Adult Novel Workshop.  My very first reviewer on this forum changed everything.  The review was constructive yet encouraging.  I noticed it was filled with grammar errors and I smiled.  I don't have to be perfect.  Everyone has specific skills to offer.  Some are good about developing believable characters, others are better at describing settings in a vivid way.  I'm good at grammar, but I have a lot to learn about showing my characters' emotions.  This one review was all I needed for me to regain confidence in my writing skills. 

I returned the favor and sent him a review, including some comments from my seven-year-old daughter, which is the target age for that particular story.  Little did my daughter know she would make someone so happy by highlighting in pink the words she wasn't familiar with and making a few comments about the story.  Simple things, yet so powerful.  The next day, the writer commented about her review in his blog entry: Target Audience - Kurt Chambers.

Since then, I gave and received countless reviews.  I revised my first two chapters and added some more.  Every time I send a review, I wonder what kind of impact it will have.  Maybe the writer just ignores it, or maybe I made someone's day by giving a much needed encouraging review.  Who knows? 

As for me, I get so excited every time I get a review.  It's like receiving a gift when it's not even my birthday.  :)


Emailman said...

This is the best blog I've ever seen We have matching blogs :) How awesome is that! It's a win/win situation.

You're a fantastic addition to out little family, Annie (and and I'm so chuffed that I could give you something back for all your wonderful help. Confidence is something you should never lack with your great writing. Trust me, I'm a writer, I know my stuff :)

SM Blooding said...

Hey. Hey! I think I know you, don't I? I mean, you look kinda familiar. LOL!!!

I love puttering around the www and finding The Novel Workshop good ways. LMAO! It makes me happy!

Will I be seeing you this weekend?

Annie McMahon said...

Hi, Frankie! Thanks for visiting. Make yourself at home. How do you like your coffee - cream and sugar? LOL

Yes, I will see you on Sunday night, if everything works out. I have to meet you now before you become too famous. ;) Can't wait! Too bad everyone else can't join us. We should all get a webcam and have a YA web conference. :)

Annie McMahon said...

Thanks, Kurt. *blush* I'm so glad I found this review forum!

Ralene said...

Annie, you are such an asset to the YA workshop! We are very fortunate to have such a bright mind among us. I love getting reviews from you!

Annie McMahon said...

Thanks, Ralene. You're making me blush again. So glad to meet such great people, and to read wonderful novels before they're even published. LOL!

SM Blooding said...

*wildly clapping and jumping up and down* Yea!!! I'm sooooo excited! Coffee = black Espresso = Toffee Nut + Soy *nods sagely*

EEEEEEEEKKKKK!!!!! I'm soooooo excited!! I get on the plane, two days! EEEEEKKKK!

LOL! I had to my head. That was mildly painful!

We're very glad you found us!!!


Annie McMahon said...

LOL! Frankie, you crack me up! Deep breath... Relax... That's it. One more time...

Ralene said...

So then you have to get Frankie to tell her your vampire story in person. It's much funnier. :P She's a doll, though, a real treat to meet in person!

Tamara Hart Heiner said...

a webcam conference is an awesome idea! do you guys have skype?

Annie McMahon said...

I don't, but I would consider buying if I have a good reason to use it. :)

Emailman said...

I'm SO jealous!!! I want to come!!! better not talk about me behind my back. I know what you girls are like :D

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