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I had a slow and rocky start on CritiqueCircle. I’d read books about writing fiction, but wasn’t applying what I’d learned. I had situations and character problems in mind, but not much of a story. Critiquers here were kind, with comments like “I don’t know where this is going.” I thought I was thick-skinned, but I was easily discouraged. Fortunately, I’m persistent, even obsessive. In a few months, I found critique partners who helped me separate the good from the bad. And that’s where the real learning began.
Some writers may be intuitive enough to craft a well-structured novel without consciously building its bones. I’m not one of them. I learned to ask questions about my story: How does this (minor) character affect the plot? What’s the main character’s goal in this scene?
Last year, following three years of critiques plus advice and support in forums, I published The Girl on the Mountain. I did that on the shoulders of faithful critique partners, a good editor, cover artist, book formatter, and a publishing support group, all linked one way or another to CritiqueCircle. In its first five months, my book has made no best-seller lists, but it has encouraging reviews, and I’ve enjoyed its local reception.
I would never have been confident to self-publish without my experiences on this site. I have a master’s in English and worked for twenty years as a technical writer, but I learned—am still learning--to write fiction here.
I’ve heard that a writer has to finish five novels before getting it right. It may not be everyone’s experience, but it’s been mine—I’ve trashed exactly four attempts that even I thought were pathetic. Now I’m writing a sequel to The Girl on the Mountain, and the process is smoother.
In CritiqueCircle forums about publishing, I came face-to-face with the need to be more public. I’d been an anonymous writer and critique partner with no photo on my profile and no exchange of personal information, even with site members whose writing I got to know well.
My first step toward publishing was to start blogging, with a photo and my real name! Then I added a signature (link to blog, later a link to book) on my profile here and on other sites. Amazingly, I suffered no bad effects.
It’s often said that if you write, you can call yourself a writer. Yet many of us are closet writers, reluctant to confess our ambitions. On this site, I not only improved as a writer, I stopped being afraid to admit it.
Thanks for reading this far. If you’re interested to see the result of my years on CC, you can read the first chapter of The Girl on the Mountain at www.carolervin.com, or sample it on Amazon: http://amzn.to/Qty8Tm .