Writers need different things from different people. They need feedback, help, snack-making, coffee-pouring, advice, editing, encouragement, encouragement, encouragement, enthusiasm, encouragement, and encouragement.
Writers need cheerleaders. Before feedback. Before editing. Before almost anything else but snack-making, we need to be convinced and reminded that we are GOOD. Feedback of the critical sort, however constructive and wise, can be deadly if it comes too soon. Possibly the most important person in our community, is our cheerleader. Do you have one? Several? Have at least one.
And no. You can not be your own cheerleader. At least, not your only one.
Here is how it goes:
In the beginning of working on a novel, everything shimmers with your genius. The newness, the never-beforeness, the unmitigated awesome, it cannot be repressed. You do not need a cheerleader yet. Just work. Enjoy this time, because it will not last.
It gets harder. You keep working. It is not as delightful to draw up your chair each day and get started. You think wistfully of the wonderful, uncomplicated dishes that need to be washed. And did you once think that character was so unique? Whatever made you think that? Delusional.
Wow. This theme is so tired. Will anyone care? I barely care anymore. And this scene seemed so cool the first twelve times I rewrote it. Have I killed it? Or is it just in a coma? Or am I in a coma? Huh. What is a coma? I think I'll google it and learn all about comas today . . .
There comes a time when you cannot summon even the phantom of the enthusiasm you once had for your great idea. You have to trust that you had it, and that is was genuine and deserved. I actually recommend making a list, while you are still in the throes of passionate love with your incipient book, of all the things you love about your idea. Be detailed. Later you can look at it and trust that you knew what you were talking about. This helps a little, but there is nothing that I have discovered that can rejuvenate your enthusiasm like wild and heartfelt PRAISE.
I think every writer I know has this wish at some point: that they could temporarily wipe their brain clean of their book and read it fresh, like a reader. We can't, of course, be we can experience that vicariously through our first readers, or as I have heard them called lately, "beta readers." It might work for you to wait until you have a finished draft. I usually need propping up well before then, and will give over chunks of partial book. I am blessed with a few wonderfully gifted praise-givers, without whom I am certain I would never finish anything. My wonderful husband Jim gives great praise, as does my best friend Alexandra, who gives only praise, and no criticism -- and she is not withholding anything, she is just an enthusiastic reader with a very generous heart and open mind, and she has revived my flagging spirits and brain so many times, like injections of writing adrenalin right to my heart, Pulp Fiction style. Stephanie Perkins is also an amazing reader, both for praise-giving and, later, for feedback. Thanks, guys!
If you don't have a cheerleader, get one. You cannot trust yourself to see your book clearly when you have been deep inside it for a long time. You are not to be trusted.
Do you have a cheerleader? And how about this: are YOU somebody's cheerleader? When a friend gives you something to read, consider carefully what they need at that moment. It might be that they need critical feedback, but maybe they aren't ready for it yet. They might know themselves well enough to tell you exactly what they need, and they might not. Do not ever be the one to kill someone's book by giving them critical feedback too soon. Bite your tongue. Nurture. Cheer. Drop off snacks. Rave. And be specific. Writers love to know which parts you liked, what made you laugh or cry or shout, "No!" in nail-biting dread, what parts were really smart or compelling or original. Just the good stuff, mind.
Oh, and, awesome: Lips Touch made Booklist's Top 10 Romance Fiction for Youth 2010 list! *thrill thrill thrill* !!!!! Here is the fabulous list, with a bunch of mouth-watering books on it.