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The value of other people

October 22, 2013

Sometimes points are best made through personal experiences. The point of this blog post isn’t self-aggrandizement. It’s just the opposite. It’s showing my mistakes and hoping you go to school on me.

I have a writing partner. Last week, I bought an extra copy of the FWA Collection, signed it, and gave it to my partner. It’s not that my signature carries any innate value–after all, I sign it every day. Even if you take it, I can make another.

But my writing partner merciless held my feet to the fire on my short story and made me keep working on it well after I thought it was good enough. Good enough would have gotten it into the Collection. The toasty-feet method got my story in the top ten.

My partner has a piece of my success–hence the signed copy. I couldn’t have done it without her.

Because I am a man of science, I have a control group. It’s an unpublished short story that I still think is the best thing I’ve ever written. It was very, very good and I went over it again and again and again and again until every single word was exactly what I wanted it to be. And, for a reason I can’t fathom, I turned it in without sending it to my writing partner.

As a result of that decision–and some very lofty competition–I still have an empty spot on my shelf where that first RPLA plaque is supposed to go.

I’m not saying that if I sent my short story to my writing partner I’d have to dust an extra thing on that shelf. What I’m saying is that I didn’t do everything I could to make sure I did as well as possible.

If you paid attention during the RPLA, you may have noticed that many of the winners seemed to have cheering sections. In many cases, those were the writers that worked with the winners in a writers group. In many cases, those writers had a piece of the win because they helped make the final product.

There’s plenty wrong with the Lost finale, but it’s overwhelming theme–the thing that permeated the story and was forgotten under all the unanswered questions was this incredibly valid point, put to words by Jack’s father Christian Shephard (that character naming is another topic for another day).

That’s why all of you are here. Nobody does it alone, Jack. You needed all of them, and they needed you.

Writing is a solitary activity. Perfecting what you write isn’t.

  1. October 22, 2013 7:59 am

    A great post, Chris, and a great message. I am proud to be your writing partner. Watch out, RPLA 2014, Chris will be taking the stage!

  2. October 22, 2013 9:38 am

    Well said, Chris. We need our supporters. Our writing partners, critique partners, editors, proofreaders, friends, and whoever else never gave up on us. Thanks for the reminder.

  3. October 22, 2013 10:19 am

    And, the editors who edit our work after all the other eyes have gone over it. I will NEVER publish another novel without an editor, a professional editor going over it, again. Been there, done that. The one thing I don’t hear anywhere in any conference or writer conversation is the point that traditionally published authors are NEVER (again in capitols) published WITHOUT an editor going over their work. Why should Indy-published writers forget that or be any different? I don’t think it’s emphasized enough at all. There should be some mention of this in a conference somewhere, but I’ve yet to see or hear it.

  4. October 22, 2013 1:40 pm

    Love your closing line: Writing is a solitary activity. Perfecting what you write isn’t. My crit colleagues are essential to the development of my best work. While our approach is collegial, we are committed to eliciting excellence in one another. I find it both humbling, inspiring and yes, occasionally frustrating when my crit partners insist, I can burnish a piece to a higher glow. Most of all, I am grateful that they care and that they believe in me.

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