I know that at least eighty percent of the people who follow my blog are writers. I also know that at least seventy percent of that eighty percent are very, very protective over what they write. I don’t blame you, either. Our writing is like cutting open our own flesh and bone and baring our soul to someone we aren’t sure will understand. And so, let me tell you a little story.
Once upon a time, there was a girl who loved to write. She wrote and wrote, things she thought were brilliant and things she felt like burning. Once she felt brave enough, she sent snippets to a few select friends. The friends liked the snippets, so she began sending more and more, until there were full chapters. Something miraculous happened – people really liked the chapters. It kept her going. The friends were encouraging and she loved hearing their responses. Years passed, and she had written three books and was working on half a dozen more. She showed her writing to anyone who wanted to see it…except her own parents.
Why was this? Well, when I think really hard about it (because I’m pretty sure you’ve figured out this girl was/is me), I think it’s because parents are tough love. The friends I send my writing to are honest, and give me feedback, but they’re not family. They don’t know you like family does.
I knew this was something I needed to fix. I thought, “Mirriam, you’re nineteen years old and you still hide your writing from your mother. This is ridiculous.” Because in reality? I was scared. Remember the aforementioned soul-bearing? It’s a frightening thing. I took a deep breath, printed out the first few pages of Not to Be, and handed it over to my mom.
You want to know several reasons why you should let your parents read your writing?
1. They’re probably interested in it. If they don’t act interested, it’s most likely because you act as if you don’t want them to be interested.
2. They will give you honest critique.
3. They will also give you the opinion of someone older and wiser than you are.
4. They love you more than even your best friends ever will.
5. If writing is your life, as it is mine, then you need to share it with your parents, even if it’s a snippet at a time. If you don’t, you’re leaving them out of something that’s incredibly important to you. It’s a connection you should have.
Now, you’re a different person than your parents. You’ll disagree on some points. They might not get what you’re trying to say at another point. They might despise a character you love. They are, after all, readers as well as parents. For instance, Mom likes Not to Be, but with reservations. She finds it a bit dark and she’s not overly fond of a certain flirtatious vampire (who happens to be almost everyone else’s favorite). Mom doesn’t read much fantasy, particularly semi-urban/steampunk fantasy with vampires – but she likes Not to Be. She’ll tell me if she thinks I overstep something I shouldn’t, and even if it’s painful, I have to cowgirl up and seriously consider what she says. I’m pretty much an adult, but nineteen years isn’t enough time to gain the wisdom she has.
Letting her read Not to Be was an enormous leap of faith for me. If she hated it, I would have been shattered. Would it have stopped me from writing it? Probably not, but a writer’s ego is a fragile thing. Harsh critique can shatter your confidence, and encouragement can put your head too far in the clouds. So, it’s hard knowing you’re going to get the toughest opinions you’ll ever get in your literary life – but it’s worth it.
Your characters are your children, but you are your parent’s child. Don’t forget which is the most important.