Writing is a solitary activity, it’s impossible to write if you’re not alone. The problem I’ve encountered with writing is not the isolated silence of my office, I quite like that, it’s doubting my own work and knowing if what I’m writing is actually any good. As writers, we don’t have the moral support of office peers or the camaraderie of co-workers to gee us on through the tough times, we have ourselves. That’s hard, especially when you’re starting out like I am.
To gain confidence in yourself, you must let others see your work. Initially this can seem daunting especially if you’re planning on asking a friend or family member to read your work. Personally I favour using strangers online. I feel strangers can be more honest as they’ve never met me and If the feedback is dreadful, I’ll never have to face them. Ever.
I signed up to a writers help site which provides email tips about all aspects of writing from using an Oxford comma to writing a cover letter for a publisher. There are often short writing tasks and writers can post their work publicly (which is a bit scary the first time you do it) for others to read and comment on. I’ve never experienced negativity or trolls or anything like that – just supportive people telling me what they liked about my writing. I also get involved in commenting on other people’s work, this helps me to grow as a writer and gives something back to the community.
In addition to that, I took part in an online writer’s course, again we had theory to read through but also audio files and videos of authors speaking to mix up the content.
We had to submit work and other students on the course we’re randomly selected to provide constructive feedback for each other – there was a structure to the feedback which was great (what did you like about the story? What weak points did you find? Did you like the characters? Etc). This was excellent because we were forced to suggest improvements but it wasn’t soul destroying to receive criticism since it was balanced by positives. Finding what to say about other people’s work was personally enriching too.
You have to let people read your work and you must be prepared for feedback – even if it’s worse than you thought – take it on the chin and use it to improve your work, remember that readers see your story differently to you and their opinions matter.