On the biggest critic


It’s been a big week. My second novel was accepted for publication before Christmas, and I’ve been waiting patiently (not) for the editor to get back to me with his suggestions. So, they’re on their way, and in the meantime, it’s time to write the back cover blurb time, as well as acknowledgements and dedication. I dedicated my first book to my sister because I hadn’t let her read a word of it before it was published, and I knew that she had found that frustrating. She couldn’t understand why I wouldn’t allow her to read and critique it. I couldn’t explain why that was impossible, but now I can.

My sister and I are very different. Growing up, she was praised for being clever and academic, I was the sporty outgoing one. She went on to university (Durham) to read English Language and Medieval Literature, I studied Occupational Therapy. She did a Post Graduate Certificate of Education and started a Masters, I worked in Mental Health and travelled. I loved what I did, and did it well, I think, but the point is, she was the clever one, the one who would, for example, write a book. So in writing, I was invading her territory, and add to the mix that by the time I was writing, she was doing a PhD in Post Colonial Literature, you can, perhaps, see why I was intimidated by the idea of her reading a word of my unproven work.

She rang me in tears when she downloaded Never Laugh at Shadows from kindle the day it was released. She was overwhelmed that I had dedicated it to her. When she was half way through it she rang me to say that the protagonist had better have a happy ending or else. I knew she was engaged with the characters at least. I started relaxing. She liked the book, has recommended it to friends, and has become a beta reader for my subsequent attempts. Her careful reading and invaluable feedback have made them better. The discussions we have about character and plot make them more real. And I have realised that she was in my court all along, has always, in fact, been my champion, and it was my fear, my intellectual inferiority complex, that blinded me to the fact.

So my point is, be brave. Ask the cleverest, most readerly people you can to give you feedback, because they are the ones who will help the most. All you have to do is still the voice that tries to convince you that you are not good enough, not worthy enough. Silence, in fact, your own, well developed inner critic, and start tuning in to others who might have a different opinion.


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