A while back, some of you realized that there was an option to turn off cookies for this website. And you jumped on your chance to do so. Well, turns out that cookies let me know how many people visit my site. And since I know my viewership didn't jump from 350 people a week to 8 people a week, I'm guessing that 342 of you turned off your cookies.
There is a very kind woman up at the University of Iowa who's one of my main Beta readers. I actually mentioned her in Where the Clouds Catch Fire as one of the two people whose written critiques were especially helpful to me. This morning when, as part of my morning routine, I checked my emails, I saw that she'd gotten back to me with comments on Where I Stand.
Nerves and excitement tangled together within me. I opened up the Word document with all her comments. In the first book, most of her comments were constructive. "You shouldn't change the point of view like this," one of her comments said. "The opening paragraph has too many adjectives," said another. And she was right. But in this book, most of the comments were things she'd liked about the story.
"You write the payoffs quite nicely, and mostly inverted--in other words, the closer to the beginning of the book a problem is introduced, the closer to the end it gets resolved." I did not do that on purpose. But I'm very glad it worked out. "You have good control over sentence length." Finally, all those writing lessons in middle school paid off! That's one of the things I was taught in my homeschool co-op.
Now there are quite a few points that she's brought up to my consideration. One was a scene that I didn't realize was affected by another scene I changed. Most of her suggestions include changing more modern words and concepts, and one of them involves the fact that Lukas gets to swear (in Latin!) but the surly fisherman Rothgeir doesn't. But Jen mentions more good things and fewer bad things than she did in the first book, and I think I know why.
Every time you do something, you learn. You learn what works and what doesn't work. If you're smart, you'll learn and do better next time. If you're super smart, you'll learn from other people and their successes (and failures). Students, you learn which studying methods work best for you. Fast food workers learn the fastest method of washing dishes. Athletes learn tactics to use against opponents. Even children learn to say certain things to get their way.
I'll go so far as to say that it's impossible, or nearly so, to practice something repeatedly and not get better at it.
To be honest, Where the Clouds Catch Fire isn't the first book I've written. I wrote another book and a half, plus several short stories that probably totaled close to 200,000 words before I even set foot on St. Anne's Cleft. And most of those 200,000 words were terrible.
Everyone makes mistakes. Everyone gives others permission to turn off cookies and makes embarrassing type-o's and says stupid things. But it's our ability to learn from those mistakes that makes us better people.
What's something you've put a lot of practice into? Let me know in the comments below! God bless you, dear readers, and don't forget to Like us on Facebook!
M. J. Piazza is a Jesus-loving, dog-walking country girl who just so happens to write books.