I sent out the latest version of my first six chapters to one of my
willing victims beta readers for a check to see if I am where I need to be. I waited with breathless anticipation for her to respond. I could not wait to read her comments, to see her reaction, and to see her point out problems that I am blind to.
Or at least that was how I felt until her comments hit my inbox. The file sat there for a week while I found any excuse I could to ignore it. I was too tired from my day job and couldn’t think straight enough to process what she was saying. I had to provide feedback for other people’s stories. I had to write up some blog posts. My mother needed my attention. I have to work on the costume I’m entering into BayCon’s Variety Show. The cat needed waxing.
I was doing everything possible to avoid reading those comments I had looked forward to so eagerly because I was afraid of what she would say. She’s read earlier versions and gotten mostly positive feedback. I need to tweak the execution here and there. Fix sentence structures so it reads clearly and easily. Add a few reactions and scenes here and there to emphasize emotional reactions. This is all stuff I know and expect. But part of me was certain, absolutely, unequivocally certain, that I would open the file to see the words “You suck! Set fire to your hard drive and never touch a keyboard again!” scrawled across the page in red, seventy-two point font. I have yet to see those words in any files, but I’m certain they will there in the next set of comments I open.
This isn’t the first time it’s happened to me. I have felt that way since I began writing fanfic mumble-mumble years ago. Opening my beta reader’s emails then was just as harrowing as opening them now.
I do eventually work up the courage to read her comments. I remind myself that they are constructive criticism meant to help me. They are what I need to hear, even if I don’t want to hear it. They are not meant to tear down my work, but build it up. Once I start reading them, I find the comments are helpful. Getting past that first fear reaction and to the point where I can objectively read the comments always takes me a while, sometimes as long as a week. I can’t say that I am getting better at diving in, but I am more aware of doing it. I do wonder. Do all authors go through this? Does it get better?