Is there a modern author out there who hasn’t been impacted by the writing of Harper Lee?
In the fall, I had the pleasure of sharing my love of her writing with my teenager who “had” to read “To Kill a Mocking Bird” for English class. I can only hope, he and others of his generation, will re-read the novel for the pleasure of being transported into a time and space, fortunately unfamiliar to many now.
With the potency of the words, the ability to ‘show’ us a life, and lead us down the path through the young eyes of Scout, is it any wonder the novel won a Pulitzer Prize in 1961. How original and thoughtful was the story through the innocent eyes of a child. Multi-layered and multi-faceted, she wove the plots of her relationship with her brother Jem, together with the secrecy of Boo Radley, and of course the trail of Tom Robinson, who had been accused of raping Mayella Ewell, as defended by her father Atticus Finch.
Though Lee, worked as a research assistant for Truman Capote for his classic non-fiction novel “In Cold Blood”, she never again published. Guarded and private, I wonder in her death will we be pleasantly surprised by a release of her secret writings, for I find it hard to believe someone as talented as she could never again put pen to paper—or perhaps, as admirer, that is merely hopeful.
Oh, to think what we could learn from her writings!
“Mockingbirds don’t do one thing but make music for us to enjoy. They don’t eat up people’s gardens, don’t nest in corncribs, they don’t do one thing but sing their hearts out for us. That’s why it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird.”
In business, I have learned,
you don’t know what you don’t know until you need to know
And KNOWING someone who does know makes all the difference between success and failure.
This is as true in writing. Many times, authors will write and submit to various publishers never to understand why their material,, to which they have attached their heart and soul, has been rejected. Connecting with someone who has experience and can point to repetitive flaws in the writing, small stylization issues, does make all the difference between acceptance and rejection.
Due to the vast connective power of the internet, in the last few years, I have been privileged to get to know a variety of writers through associations and the social media networks. But the very best way I have grown as an author and gotten to know my peers is through Beta Reading or Critique groups.
Some authors express concern about joining groups for fear:
All of these worries, and any other’s you may come up with, should not form barriers to connecting with other authors because … we’re all human so if you don’t have any writing to submit one week or another, it’s really not that big a deal. I have found being part of the group motivates me to produce and stay on track with my writing schedule. It really doesn’t matter if it’s two pages or ten.
The point is to write and move the writing forward.
As far as the time commitment, givers gain. What you will receive in other’s opinions on your work will far outweigh the time commitment—perhaps an hour or two a week—to critique other’s writing. Besides, everyone who reads is an excellent critique partner. What interests you and motivates you to turn the page is what matters most. What keeps you enthralled in the story or takes you out is valuable information.
Some authors will use this information weekly to edit and change their stories to accommodate the group’s feedback, while others will get the bones of the story down and wait to the end to review the critique notes and use this feedback as the start of the editing process. How ever you choose to use the information is up to you. The most important point is to participate, because you will never know what you don’t know until you ask. A Beta group is the one venue authors have to ask what they need to know prior to sending it off to a publisher. A second opinion working for your benefit.