My local library started hosting a local author fair last year. This was their second year and it wasn’t as great as last year. I think 1) they forgot to put up fliers about it or something because a lot of library patrons that were there that day had no idea what was going on and 2) it was raining nonstop and kinda cold.
Despite that, I was super happy to meet a 13-year-old girl today who is an aspiring writer! I don’t get to meet a lot of aspiring writers (or meet a lot of people period since I work from home) so I absolutely love events like these where I can say hi to other local authors, check out what everyone else is writing (spoiler alert: I’m the only one who seems to be writing YA fantasy), and talk to readers.
My favorite people to talk to are people like the 13-year-old girl. They’re so young and so full this magic stuff and ideas. She reminded me a lot of myself at that age. Like she was writing and she seemed to enjoy writing, but at the same time she was too embarrassed to admit it to anyone else, let alone to a person like me who actually has a couple books under my belt. In fact: Only one of my friends were keenly aware that I was writing a book in high school. I can’t remember if I told her I was writing fanfiction, too or not. But it took a long time for me to be comfortable enough to say, “Yeah, I write books.” And sometimes I still feel embarrassed to say that I’m an author.
She told me (or rather her mom mentioned it) that she was writing fanfiction. Which is totally cool and something I love to see. I forgot to ask her what show/book her fanfiction was based on. Based on her shirt, Harry Potter perhaps? I can’t stress enough how important fanfiction can be to beginning writers and how important that the feedback you get from fans of the show/book/whatever is. Unless you’re writing OOC (out of character) deliberately, to mess up an already established character is a huge no-no in the fanfiction world and can be such a huge step in learning how to create your own characters that stay true to themselves. Yes, characters might evolve and grow, but it needs to feel natural. You can’t take a withdrawn character and suddenly have them dancing in the street in the next moment unless you showed the readers a reason. Fans will tell you that’s wrong. Grant it, some fans might tell you in a super harsh way instead of a helpful, critique-ish way.
She also recently had a bad review on her work, so I think she was feeling pretty bummed about that. And I can’t stop telling people enough how much I love my bad reviews. That is, bad reviews that actually have some legit feedback and go beyond the “U suck” type comment. Those kinds of bad reviews, I just roll my eyes at. But the bad reviews that have legit feedback can sting. I remember I received my first (and I think only?) 1-star review for THE CHOSEN that came out shortly after I first self-published it back in 2011. The novel was a mess, editorically speaking. Here’s a portion of what they said:
…there were some words that were used incorrectly – the merpeople eat mussels, not muscles, and light covers someone, it doesn’t covet them. Lastly, there were many sentences that were structurally incorrect or just not quite right, and there was an overuse of commas. All of these issues could have been solved had she had someone carefully read through the manuscript before it was published.
I remember crying and being very melodramatic about it. “I’m never going to write again!” “I”m a horrible person!” “WHAT WAS I THINKING OF PUTTING THIS OUT IN THE WORLD?!” And after whining and a lot of ice cream eating later, I realized that this person, this wonderful, wonderful person wasn’t out to hurt me. They were trying to HELP me. If I had stopped reading and picking through all the negative stuff they said in her review, I would have focused on the fact that they mentioned they were sort of invested in my characters by the time they reached the end of the book. And that’s a big deal. So I brushed myself off and really focused on editing. I focused so much editing and became so much better at it, in fact, that I’ve recently had a few people compliment me on my editing which feels really relieving. It’s nice to know I’m moving in the right direction.
Also: I feel lame because I totally forgot to ask her her name. So hey, if you’re the girl I talked to at the author fair and you’re reading this, send me an email if you have any other writing questions! And tell me your name!
Actually: anyone who has a writing question can send me questions either in the comments or though my contact form. I love answering them!