I feel a bit like the Cowardly Lion at the moment--I have just submitted my work for my first agent critique ever, and I am practically shaking in my fuzzy socks.
At SCBWI Poconos, I won the silent auction for an email critique with Harvey Klinger agent Sara Crowe, who we ate two lunches with and who was quite lovely. I was thrilled when I won the critique--finally! Someone in the professional book publishing world, looking at my work! But then the doubt crept in: what if she hated it? What if I hate it? What if it turns out I'm a terrible writer?
Now, the first is possible. The second, it depends on what mood I'm in. And I'm generally confident enough to believe that the third is not true. But the truth is, I've wanted to be a writer since I was seven years old. That means I've held onto the passion, this way of life, for the past 18 years. And in those 18 years, there have definitely been less than 18 people who I have intentionally let read my work. That's my biggest issue as a writer: going public. I'm deeply protective of my work, because if I don't show it to anyone, then there isn't anyone who can tell me that they don't like it. When I took my first writing workshop in college, we were each required to read the first page of our work out loud to the class when it was our turn for critique. "To get a feel of the author's voice," my professor explained. My voice was quiet and shaky, and having to listen to people critique my story for 45 minutes without being allowed to talk almost brought me to tears.
I've grown since then. I've amassed seven undergraduate semesters of writing workshops (including ones with Carolyn Ferrell, author of Proper Library, a Best American Short Story of the Century story, and the lesser-known Nelly Reifler, who changed my entire writing life), 4 semesters of graduate writing workshops, and become a part of the wonderful writing group that runs this blog.
Now, you must be thinking--all those classes! That's hundreds of readers! True. But when I said, "intentionally let read my work," I don't include them, because I didn't have a choice. I really only wanted the professor to read it--the students were bystanders. My friends have rarely read my work, my mother has only ever read one story.
So the idea of sending my heart and soul to a stranger whose opinion can be the difference between a contract and not, was a little unsettling. But it's off now, and I can't do a damn thing about it except keep writing. My one glimmer of hope? This is the only draft I have sat down and written 10 pages of in a day. In a sitting, no less! That must be a sign. Either I'm off-my-rocker with frustration and anything goes at this point, or perhaps I'm onto something.
What about everyone else? What's your biggest writing fear?