For the Insecure Writers’ Support Group, I’ll discuss something I’ve dealt with recently before moving on to Annabelle, the haunted doll everyone loves to hate.
Over the last year, I’ve struggled to find critique partners. My last beta reader was also my fiancé, and I could never thank him enough for continuing to read my work and offer feedback after our relationship ended. But eventually we got to a point where he couldn’t keep up and I needed a fresh pair of eyes.
I decided to ask one of my online friends if he’d be interested. I loved his blog, and we both wrote the same genre.
While his book started off strong, it quickly went downhill, and I felt terrible. I didn’t know what else to do, so I tried to help. I put on my editing hat and went to work, indicating where he’d overwritten, or used the same words and phrases over and over again, or just wasn’t making sense.
The last thing I wanted to do was hurt his feelings or make him secondguess his own writing. I had a tough choice to make: I could either not say anything at all, pretending I hadn’t read it; I could lie and say something vague about how great the concept was; or I could tell the truth, hoping he’d take it in the spirit in which it was meant.
As an editor and as a friend, I strongly felt I had to tell the truth. I didn’t think lying would help him or his book.
So I told the truth.
While he seemed to take it reasonably as first, saying that others had pointed out the same issues, he soon unfollowed me on social media. Saddened, I sent an email of apology, letting him know I was only trying to help.
He didn’t respond.
Ironically, the same day I received an email from an agent. It was a detailed revise-and-resubmit request that ripped apart a book I’d been proud of.
Of course it hurt that the agent found flaws in my work, but once I got over my disappointment, I was grateful. I couldn’t use all of her suggestions, but quite a few of them will make my book stronger. It was clear she had taken a lot of time to give me valuable feedback.
The agent and I both have a blunt editing style. We’re not cruel, but we don’t sugarcoat things. We get right to the point–indicating the problems in a manuscript in the hopes of making it better.
Editors aren’t “negative” when they find problems with your work. Whether you’re paying them for a service, or they’re doing you a favour as a friend, they’re only trying to help. You may not like what they have to say, but they’re not doing it to be mean. What would be the point?
This has taught me a valuable, if difficult, lesson. I already paid close attention to negative feedback of my work, but now I will feel doubly grateful that someone cared enough to take the time to help make my novels stronger. And I will no longer edit friends’ work, unless I’ve already seen something of their prose and know I will have many positive things to say.
It’s too painful.
Have you ever lost a friend because you didn’t like his or her book? Has critical feedback ever made you angry, or has it helped? How do you respond to it?
A is for Annabelle
The doll in the film is horrifying…something you’d toss out the second you received it. The real Annabelle is a cuddly Raggedy Ann doll.
You can visit her at the Warrens’ Occult Museum in Monroe, Connecticut, where she is kept in a glass case with a warning sign prominently displayed.
The real Annabelle was purchased at an antique store in the 1970s. A mother bought it for her daughter, Donna, a nursing student. Soon Donna and her two roommates Angie and Lou (Lou isn’t described as a roommate, but he always seems to be in their apartment) noticed something odd about the doll. It moved. Annabelle was never in the same room where they’d left her. She could also close doors and write messages, and the messages were on parchment paper, something Donna didn’t keep in the house.
The friends consulted a medium who told them “Annabelle” was the spirit of a girl who’d been murdered on the land where the apartment complex stood. Feeling sorry for the child, Donna agreed that the girl’s spirit could inhabit the doll and live with them.
That’s when hell really broke loose.
After Lou was attacked by the doll, Donna contacted a priest, who in turn contacted famed parapsychologists Ed and Lorraine Warren. The Warrens concluded that “Annabelle” was not the spirit of a little girl at all, but a demon who was terrorizing Donna and her friends in order to possess one of them. An exorcist was called in, and the doll was taken to its new home at the museum. Ed claimed the doll levitated and moved from room to room while it was in his home, and even used its powers to murder a priest, who managed to escape a near-fatal car accident soon after challenging the doll.
Annabelle’s time in the museum hasn’t been quiet, either. After a young man mocked the doll and banged on the glass case, he was killed in a motorcycle accident.
Do you think Annabelle is possessed, or were Donna’s friends playing a trick on her? Were the two accidents the work of Annabelle or unfortunate coincidences?
If you like stories of cursed toys, you’ll love The Bear Who Wouldn’t Leave.