One of the best decisions I've ever made was to connect with a few writer friends (most of the time we connect at conferences) and build a friendship which includes reading the other person's work. In my opinion every author should have such friends. And the truth is that most of the time you will learn far more editing/commenting on someone else's work that by reading their comments about yours. You can see what works, what doesn't, and why. Oh, yes, and it's also great to include suggestions for improvement, which also build on your skills.
This is a passage from "Bird by Bird" by Anne Lamott, talking about the friends she has read her work:
"I always send my work Federal Express, because I am too impatient to wait for the mail to deliver it. I spend the entire next day waiting to hear, pacing, overeating, feeling paranoid and badly treated if I haven't heard from my friends by noon. Naturally I assume that they think it is tripe but that they don't have the courage to tell me. Then I'll think about all the things I don't like about either of them, how much in fact I hate them both, how it is no wonder that neither of them has many friends.
“And then the phone will ring and they will usually say something along the lines of 'I think it's going to be great, I think it's really good work. But I also think there are a few problems.'
“ . . . My first response if they have a lot of suggestions is never profound relief that I have someone in my life who will be honest with me and help me to do the very best work of which I am capable. No, my first thought is, 'Well, I'm sorry, but I can't be friends with you anymore, because you have too many problems. And you have a bad personality. And a bad character.'
“ . . . But then whatever friend is savaging my work will suggest that we go through it together page by page . . . and if I'll hang in there, they'll have found a number of places where things could be much stronger, or funnier, or more real or more interesting, less tedious. They may even have ideas on how to fix those places, and so, by the end, I am breathing a great sigh of relief and even gratitude."
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