I still do that. I send my chapters to my friends, my agent, "Is this okay? Does this work?" Because I'm not always sure. I mean, I like it okay, obviously, I wrote it. But I need other people to tell me if it really works. And I can tell right away if someone is faking the unconditional Mom-love vibe, "Oh yeah, this is great..." (Avoids eye contact, flits away.)
Meh is not something that encourages me to keep going.
I fear Meh.
So flash back a few years and I'm in this wonderful critique group and I'd been sharing the first draft of SEA for awhile. Many false starts later (I'm the queen of false starts), I had a decent draft going and a new woman joined our group. An illustrator who was hoping to write words to go along with her pictures.
What we do is go around the table and read.
When I started reading from SEA I watched her eyes light up.
She leaned forward.
She focused on my every word.
When I finished the chapter she leaned back and sort of sighed a little.
Then she wrote me a letter saying that she adored what she'd heard, that my character Deni reminded her of a boy she met in Mexico as a teen with his dark hair and sultry eyes and haunted smile. That the steamy heat of the story brought her right back to that moment, of new exciting fresh dangerous love. And at the bottom of the letter she wrote:
"I have a good friend who is an editor. I'd love to show her SEA when you are finished, if that would be okay with you?"
OKAY WITH ME??
ARE YOU KIDDING??
I did a happy dance and praised whoever brought her into the group. I thanked and thanked her.
That contact didn't end up leading to a publishing contract, but it did light the candle under my fingers to get the draft done. It also led to agent interest and other editor interest. It encouraged me to start my blog. To get out there with my story.
Her enthusiasm convinced me I was not working on a meh manuscript, but something that brought out real emotions in people. She felt the heart of the story, was moved by the beat of those Indonesian drums.
And it kept me dancing.