"You can do better," he said.

I’ll never forget the day Daddy threw down my newly-finished manuscript.


My father is usually a stately individual, one of the hardest people in the world to “ruffle”. But that day, he stood in front of me with fire in his eyes. I was definitely disturbed by the sight.
“What’s the matter, Dad?!”
“You can do better!” he declared. “You’re a wonderful writer! You can do better than this!”
I peeked at the part he had been reading. Then I asked, “What’s wrong with it?”
“It’s not descriptive enough. You’re holding yourself back. You can do better! Add some blood, add some emotion, add… something!”
He huffed and shook his head. I solemnly nodded. My parents are my main supporters in my writing adventures. I greatly value and respect their input, especially when so passionately given.

It didn’t take long. I reworked the passage. It was hard to admit it, but he was right. I had a problem with holding myself back during the most emotional parts of writing. I was worried about people rolling their eyes at the “flair”, or maybe shutting the book because it was too dark.
However, now I was determined to not let that fear rule me. 

Not long after that, I got a call from my mother.
“Jessiqua Dawn!” she nearly screeched over the phone. “How could you do this to me?!”
“What’s the matter?!” I worriedly demanded. (Mom hadn’t called me by my middle name in years!)
“This book! I’m so embarrassed! This part with Mercy is turning me colors on her behalf!”
I started laughing. Mom wasn’t really mad. She was just… involved.
“Have you even finished the sentence, Mom?”
There was a small pause before she confessed, “No.”
“Finish the sentence, okay?”
“Okay. Love you.”
“Love you, too.”
We hung up the phone. Five minutes later, I got another call.
“It’s worse!!” Mom squealed as soon as I picked up. “Now I’m even more embarrassed! I don’t think I can handle this!”
I laughed and told her to keep reading.

The amusing cycle continued. To my knowledge, that manuscript was thrown down about four times before we finally got it published. The first time was because Dad was telling me I could do better, the other three times was because pre-readers got so involved in the story they pitched a fit during a dramatic plot twist.
Thankfully, each time the pre-reader threw the book down, they ended up picking it up again and finishing the story. And each one of them reported to me afterward that A Memoir of Mercy was one of the best, most thought-provoking books they had ever read. Music to an author’s ears.

I know it’s easy to be possessive and touchy about your precious work, no matter what it may be. But just because your manuscript looks a little beat up, doesn’t mean it’s worthless or unloved. It just might be made of the good stuff. Or it may have the potential for being made of the good stuff.
Therefore, even if it hurts to admit that you could do better, listen to some trusted mentors, and make sure your work is the very best it can be! It’ll be so, so worth the blow to your pride. Trust me.

You may be good, but you can do better.

6 comments:

  1. Yes! Oh ... this post made me laugh. Been there, done that ... and it all helps to make a book worth reading!

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    1. Oh yes! It's all worth it by the end! And it gives you a good, real-life story to tell later.

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  2. Love it! Whew, I was worried there for a sec but then I was laughing and smiling along. :) Thanks for the encouragement, Jessiqua! :)

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    1. I was worried there for a bit, too! My Daddy doesn't ever get mad at me! Then I realized that he wasn't mad, and everything was a little more handle-able. haha!

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  3. I love that you are willing to take advice and handling the constructive 'criticism" well. That shows maturity and a humble spirit. I look around me today and I hardly know any young person who would take their parents advice, wisdom and suggestions to heart. I wish I had more when I was younger... I would have less regrets in my life! In fact, there has never been a time that I did regret listening to my parents :-)
    But it's amazing to see how God leads our parents to direct us; even if we are adults ourselves!

    Samantha

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    1. Thank you for your kind words. Although I must say that it's much easier to take criticism from my parents than it is to take it from most other people. My parents have done well with gaining my trust and not nit-picking me, so when they do choose to pick something apart, I perk up my ears and listen, because it's (most likely) important.
      P.S. I also had problems taking my parents' advice when I was a teenager. But getting married and having my own children made my respect for them spike in an amazing way. :) This "successfully raising children to adulthood" thing is tough!

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