by Kristin Baker Przybyla
As writers, we all know the importance of having critiquers and cheerleaders--people who can provide unbiased opinions and advice for our works in progress, and cheer us on when we're at a rough patch.
I'd like to add another type of reader that I rather enjoy having around: the Crazed Fan.
Perhaps I should change that definition to "the Sane Yet Still Decidedly Fanatic Reader." Not the type of fan who is going to get in a heated argument with someone over the finer points of what happened in a book vs. how they changed it in the movie; or key your car because you said you were on Team Jacob rather than Team Edward. (I'm Team Neville Longbottom myself; please don't slash my tires!)
I was just texting a friend tonight, when she told me she was reading The Moongate over again, because it had been a couple of years since she'd read it last. We met when we were both servers at Denny's; The Deathly Hallows had just come out when I started working there, and we both discovered we shared a great enthusiasm for the same genre of books. At the time, I wasn't even halfway through with the first draft of The Moongate, but somehow she ended up reading it.
I credit my husband for forcing me to find the courage to start writing a novel, by getting me a laptop for Christmas. I credit all my writers' group friends, online and in person, for helping me through the many edits and query letter revisions that followed. I credit my teenage daughter Lia for being a huge cheerleader and reassuring me that I don't suck (and for bearing the brunt of my many rejection letter frustrations and tears). But it's because of Megan, my friend from Denny's, that I didn't give up during a period when I had next to no free time to write, and content myself with saying, "I'll finish it someday when the kids are older and I don't have to work anymore."
Because Megan scared me. We worked together on weekends, and I'd rush to finish writing the next chapter before Friday or face her wrath. If I had only one new chapter for her, she'd gripe to me all night that I didn't give her enough. If I had nothing, she wouldn't speak to me. One time, she woke me up in the middle of the night with an angry text complaining that I'd left her hanging with a huge cliffhanger chapter end (I'll admit I did that on purpose).
After so many weeks of frenetically writing to appease Megan's need for more chapters, I suddenly found myself writing, "The End." I'd never thought I'd reach that point, and I honestly believe it was because of her that I finished it as quickly as I did. This, of course, led to a few chapters near the end that were messy because of my haste, but I've since gone back and fixed their problems.
One time, Megan told me she was my biggest fan. I don't know if I'll ever hear that from anyone again, but I'll always remember how good it felt. Although I asked many times for her honest opinion on whether there was anything wrong with the plot, she never offered any advice. (That's not to say the first draft didn't have TONS of problems!) She loved what I gave her, and I ate up her praise like it was chocolate.
It's invaluable to have friends who aren't afraid to be blunt, often painfully so, when they're reading through your work. It's just as vital to find critiquers who are good at finding the inevitable problems. It helps to know someone who won't let you wallow in your misery and put yourself down when the rejections and bad criticism come rolling in--even if they're not avid readers; anyone with the knack for building someone up will do. My husband is great at reminding me I have talent, even if he hasn't yet read the huge revision I did to The Moongate's ending. Those three types of readers are the best kinds of support to motivate a writer to continue honing her craft.
But if you can find someone who shares a passion for your favorite genre, and get them to love what you write, that can also make a big difference. It didn't matter to me that I wasn't getting a critique from Megan; the real feedback was in knowing that I was writing something that someone unrelated to me enjoyed as much as Harry Potter--and it was very gratifying to find out I was appealing to my target audience.
I promised Megan that tonight I'd email her what I have of the sequel, Blood Moon. Right now I'm at the beginning of a chapter where a pivotal event I planned years ago finally goes down. I can't wait for her to see it. I wonder if I should put my phone on silent, just in case she sends me another angry text in the middle of the night? Because this one ends in a huge cliffhanger too.