Seriously, get a writing mentor.
I had the good fortune of sitting down for a Skype critique with my friend Stuart a week ago, and to say that the experience was eye-opening doesn’t seem descriptive enough. We looked at the first two chapters of my novel, and I walked away after two hours with a much deeper understanding of this particular manuscript and my own writing in general. There were a few stylistic issues that I know I still struggle with, and at least that I thought I had nicked. More importantly, there were a couple glaring issues in terms of my characterization and the power dynamic among my characters that I was previously blind to.
Suffice to say I walked away from the critique with a detailed list of what needs to be fixed or tweaked in my manuscript. I knew that this novel would likely need a third draft, but I didn’t realize how extensive that is going to be. As much as it might seem daunting to have an editor provide a long list of suggested changes, I’m excited – I want this novel to be the best is possibly can.
The point here (if it wasn’t already clear) is that everyone needs a writing mentor. Or two. Having friends and fellow writers read your work is valuable – I do that, too – but having someone experienced and trustworthy to draw wisdom and inspiration from is critical to developing your writing.
I just hope that a decade or two from now I can pay it forward to the next generation of writers.