About Your Review . . .
By Sheli Ellsworth
As a fellow writer, I would like to give every book I read a five-star review! I love the uniqueness and idiosyncrasies of each and every one. However, as a book reviewer, I realize this system would quickly result in the stars having no value at all. A professional writer, someone who has devoted their career to perfecting the written word, usually deserves more stars. These books, often come from major publishing houses and not only have carefully crafted plots, but have been through several rounds of professional editing and have the finishing touches of book stylist, graphic designers, etc. The final product is usually superior to that of a small press or a self-published, vanity press product. This does not mean you should not pursue these avenues, but realize what you might be up against.
“But I tried so very hard! It’s my baby,” we say. I hope heaven is a place where we are rewarded for our efforts, Earth, however, is a different story. Instead of lamenting a less-than-perfect rating, give yourself a pat on the back for having an idea, another for patience, one for following through and then one for bravery. This is how great writing starts.
Seeking out constructive criticism is part of the process of writing. A critique group of experienced writers is probably the most humbling and rewarding thing you can do for your writing. This is where your dangling participles are debated and where you allow yourself to accept help. Sometimes we think of writing as an extremely personal adventure where we eventually launch our genius into the world. But in fact, mentors, critics and fellow writers raise the bar and then help us over it. Helen Keller once said, “Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. Life is either a daring adventure or nothing.” Don’t be afraid to ask for help and consider opinions.
Sometimes it helps to know what drives our writing. Is it a love for the written word? Are we trying to get even with our eighth grade English teacher who covered our efforts with red ink? Or are you telling a story that is meant to exorcise personal demons? Sometimes our ego overrides our sense of story—something seasoned writers either have perfected or ignore because you usually don’t sense narcissism in their work.
One thing I have learned from television writers is that there is less whining and fewer tears after a critique. They fix it and move on always planning their next script. Maybe their projects are smaller so they don’t have as much time invested, but maybe their dreams are bigger and one manuscript does not define them.
I invite you to move on, embrace the next book, give yourself credit for the effort and DREAM BIG.
Sheli Ellsworth is a free-lance writer and mother of two teenagers who lives in Thousand Oaks, CA. She has a master’s degree in psychology used mainly to annoy family and friends. Her writing has been published in the Pacific Daily News, the Ventura County Star, BackHome magazine, Auto Week, Zone4 and she also writes Dear Miss Betty-advice for those who need to be slapped for Spotlight on Recovery.