As a newbie in the world of publishing, I enjoy hanging on the words of the wise, and spending time with older hands who are happy to roll back their sleeves and show me their scars.

I have learned much at the knee of Veny Armanno (QWC’s Year of the Novel), Kim Wilkins (Year of the Edit) and Nick Earls, whose generosity in inducting Brisbane’s debut authors into the world of publishing was stretched to capacity this year.

My education continues, online, following writer’s websites (a few of myย  favourites are on the lower right of the screen), and in real life, at festivals, writer’s get-togethers, and through reading till my eyes bleed.

But almost everything I have learned as a writer, I have learned by writing and putting it out there.

I now have a discerning first reader who is capable of pinpointing what hasn’t made it onto the page (but needs to be there), and what clunks in the otherwise smooth action of my story.

Feedback may not be the hallelujah chorus of my dreams, but neither is it a direct thrust to the heart. It is certainly an opportunity to see my work through trusted, more objective, eyes.

When I scanned the initial response to my latest work, I had to admire my first reader’s ability to season praise with constructive criticism. She hit on a couple of niggling issues that I had pushed away during the writing process (things I probably hoped to get away with and didn’t.)

It reminded me of James Roy on the adverse comment in an otherwise favourable review: ‘That’s like saying you’ve got a beautiful baby, but it’s got big ears. Big deal. You’ve still got a beautiful baby.’

I’ll hang on to that thought while I’m doing my revisions.

I’ve got a beautiful baby … (but that’s not going to stop me pinning back those ears.) ๐Ÿ˜‰

  1. Great post, Chris. I think writers are such courageous people putting their stuff out into the world. I agree with you. Getting the stuff out is what teaches the most. The actual doing. I have spent a small fortune on books and courses that guide me but none will make me a better writer until I actually write and then apply what I have learned. And it’s great finding someone who can give you honest and constructive criticism for the higher good of the story. Someone whose judgement you trust. It’s a great relationship to have. And from it will come another beautiful baby, nipped, tucked and delivered safely into the world.

    • chrisbongers says:

      Lynn, the more you write, the more you learn to trust yourself and your instincts. When someone else you trust confirms your suspicions, it makes revisions so much easier.

  2. But, oh, how good it is when all is smooth and cooked to perfection. Good luck!

  3. Oh, how we all wish for an hallelujah chorus! And I can absolutely relate to someone pointing out something that I quietly hoped to get away with…

    Good luck with the edits – having someone you trust and that understands your writing (both its strengths and otherwise) is half the journey. Can’t wait to see the outcome!

  4. Kathleen says:

    Woohoo! HHH in July-Aug 2010? Congrats ๐Ÿ˜‰

    I’m always astonished by how generous authors are to emerging writers. It’s not something I ever came across when I wanted to be an actor, so I absolutely love it.

    I’m considering hiring a hallelujah chorus or a cheer squad (complete with pom poms) but I’m still researching the cost etc…I mean, my writing group is great but they refuse to sing and dance…

  5. Joanna Gaudry says:

    I’m sure that you’ll fix up those book ears, Chris. Good analogy. Heading over to AWMonline writing race now (Tuesdays, 8-9).
    Joanna :))

  6. I love that quote about the ears. I’m filing it away for future use. I’ve got a bit of ear pinning to do myself I think.

  7. chrisbongers says:

    Sandy, don’t mention filing! My desk is littered in BAS, tax and GST. I’m working my way through it now so that I can get back to my manuscript pronto!

  8. You’re so right about that trusted first reader, Chris. And trust is a necessary thing – because with that can come truth, and that’s even more important to get the story on the right path. Good luck with HHH – looking forward to reading it.

  9. chrisbongers says:

    Thanks Sheryl, I’ve been enjoying your travelblog and would love to catch up when you get home.

  10. Joanna Gaudry says:

    Hi, Chris
    I read ‘Dust’ today and absolutely loved it. I don’t normally read a book in one day but it was so good that I had to keep reading. Congratulations on your brilliant first novel. Touching, funny, harrowing; all in one. Thank you for a wonderful book. Joanna :))

  11. chrisbongers says:

    Hi Joanna, I just caught your five-star review on facebook – thanks for the plug! ๐Ÿ™‚

  12. Tracey says:

    Hi Chris

    When you say first reader who do you get to do that – bibliophilic friend, paid professional, impartial associate?

    • chrisbongers says:

      Tracey, I’ve always envied those writers who have a discerning first reader who is prepared to wade through a novel-length manuscript for nothing more than love or thanks (Stephen King’s wife, for instance). I don’t have an agent, so my publisher is my first reader (which is a step up from the manuscript appraisal agency I used for the first draft of Dust.)

  13. Tracey says:

    Oops, forgot to tick the box.

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