It’s Not Just Caring: Why Sharing Your Work Is Necessary

It’s cause for a small celebration, because I just received tons of great feedback on the second draft of my book! I may have dragged my feet over the past eight months working on other projects, but I finally did it. I edited my first book!

editor

As friends and family write back to me about their thoughts on my story, I’m grateful that people express interest in my work, since I know very few people have actually read what I put out there (from my reviews and blog posts to my stories), so it always warms my heart to learn that people want to see what I’ve been working on. It’s also made me realize how necessary it is to share your work with others, for a few reasons.

1. You know your story too well.

You’ve been living with this story in your head in your head for a while now. Maybe it’s only been a week, maybe it’s been two years that you’ve been developing every facet of your world. The point is, you know how the story’s supposed to go, so a few of those important details that make it tick may have slipped through the cracks somehow.

When other people read your story, they’ll ask questions about character development, where this important plot point came from, etc. You can answer their questions right away, but they help you realize that – oops – you forgot to include something! Thus, making your story stronger.

2. Everyone interprets things differently

Sometimes you come up with what you think is the perfect line that helps out with worldbuilding or gives a character the perfect closure they deserve, but then it falls flat on its face. Other times you’ll write a little line that’ll resonate  with readers more than the main conversation that makes you rethink the whole purpose of the story.

People have different experiences that shaped them, and even the smallest things can elicit a response from them. You never know what people will connect with, which is always exciting and, at times, satisfying.

3. Friends and family are curious about what you’re working on.

I try to stay busy during the day. When I’m not working on my job, I’m critiquing other writer’s work  in my writing group, working on my own stories, or editing something for myself. I’ll go out and do stuff from time to time, but typically I’ll sacrifice socializing for writing.

I also tend not to share much. That’s why when I asked people out there if they wanted to read my book, I was surprised by how many responses I got. I ended up sending my book out to a dozen people, and so far about half of them have written back to me with better feedback than I could have imagined.

I know I’m referencing mostly books and short stories here, but this applies to music, poetry, blog posts, and any creative medium. You’ll never grow if you don’t put yourself out there. Sure, it’s scary, but trust me on this. If you share, you’ll be a better writer for it.

Felix, Part 2: What Happened in the Market?

Felix has always been fascinated by the world around him and unafraid to try new things. Ever since he read about the rise and fall of the Elementals, however, he hasn’t been able to think about anything else. 

“So Voxace used to be the capitol of the world?” I ask, filling my plate.

“It would have been,” Mom says, “but when the Elementals overran Sauca, everyone abandoned the Unification.”

“That’s where all the cities would have become one big group?” I ask.

“Exactly, Felix,” Dad says, “we would have been a nation. Other lands far away have had nations for as long as I can remember.” The door creaks open, and Filion walks in with a brown jug. “Hey, Fil!” Dad says.

Filion shuts the door as Dad and I sit on the floor at the low table, plates full. “I’ll join you after I put the milk outside,” he says.

“Okay, don’t take too long.” Mom lifts a basin of water onto the stove and adds more wood to the metal firebox. She scoops chicken and vegetables onto her plate and sits on the floor next to the table. I take a huge bite and cough. My eyes water from the spice. Mom laughs. “Strong, isn’t it?”

“Yeah!” I gulp down water to soothe my burning mouth. “It doesn’t smell spicy, though.”

“You must have used the Saucan pepper. It has hardly any smell, but it’ll make any meal hotter.” Mom takes a bite. “It’s good, if you like spice.”

Filion walks back in and goes to the stove. “You used way too much pepper, Felix. I would have mentioned it, but you seemed so pleased with yourself.”

“Filion!” Dad says.

“What? It’s true.” Fil joins us with a full plate.

“I thought you said it was too spicy!” I hit him in the shoulder.

“It’s too spicy for you. I can handle it.”

“Filion, that’s enough,” Mom says.

“Fine.” Fil takes a huge bite. “How did you guys do today?” he asks through a full mouth.

Dad reaches for his cup. “Pretty good. We sold everything today.”

“Even the cima dolls?” I ask.

Mom nods. “Even the cima dolls. People bought them like they were going out of style. Good suggestion, Felix.”

“Zia showed me hers. That’s where I got the idea.”

“The girl next door?” Mom asks.

“His girlfriend,” Filion says.

“No she’s not!” I hit Filion again. He smirks.

“Enough!” Dad says, slamming his hand on the table. Filion and I turn to Dad. His cheeks are as red as his hair. “I don’t want to hear any more bickering from you two, understand?”

“He started it!” I say.

“Your father’s right,” Mom says, “Filion, you need to start setting a better example for your brother. Felix, quit hitting him. You know he’s just teasing you to get a rise out of you. We’d rather not come home to our children fighting after a long day, understand?”

“But you said it was a good day.”

“It was, but something happened today.” Mom takes another bite.

“Was it the fire in the market?” Filion asks, shoveling more food into his mouth.

Dad sets down his fork. “That was nothing.”

Filion swallows his food. “People kept talking about it in the street when I went to get milk. They said they’d risk going to the next borough for food if it happened again.”

“What fire in the market?” I ask.

“They terrified everyone,” Dad says, “people bought those cima dolls so they would feel safer. Cheap protection charms sell in a time of crisis, I guess. Let’s hope it doesn’t happen again.  We’ll lose all our business if it does, and then neither of you two will go to the Baress School.”

I don’t understand why Dad ignored me. He always answers my questions, unless it’s about something serious and he needs to think about it. Before I can ask again Filion says,“The school’s not that expensive,”

“How are you going to get there, son?” Dad takes a sip of water.

“I’ll take a horse or a wagon or-”

“Those things cost money, you know. And I am not letting you hitchhike. The road from here to Baress is too dangerous.”

“If we have a couple more days like today, we might be able to send you with Zeke’s caravan next week.” Mom starts gathering the empty plates. “Just be patient, Fil.”

My brother sighs, then picks up my plate and his. “Okay.”

“What went down in the market, Dad?” I ask again.

Dad sighs, resting his arms on the table. “This woman with white hair stopped and stared at your mom. I asked her if she needed anything, but she completely ignored me.”

“I bet she was one of those old witches from outside the city. Did she have a big cat with her?” I ask. “Zia says they always have big cats on their shoulders.”

“That’s just it, Felix,” Mom says, “she couldn’t have been much older than me when I married your father. Beautiful, too. Absolutely beautiful. She stares at me with that eerie stare and then she whispered under her breath before walking away.” Mom sighs. “It’s been a weird day.”

“I saw her!” Filion smiles, and his eyes light up. “Yeah, I’m pretty sure I walked past her on the way back to the house. You’re right, Mom, she’s beautiful.”

Mom’s brow furrows. “In that case, neither of you will leave the house after dinner until all this blows over. That woman may be dangerous, and the city guard’s grown more aggressive the past few weeks.”

“But Fil said there was a fire-”

“That was nothing, Felix.” Dad pats me on the shoulder. “Just a couple ruffians causing trouble.”

I look to Fil, hoping for answers. His brow is furrowed. “Can I help you guys out in the market the next few days?” he asks. “I want to help get as much money together as possible.”

Dad smiles. “You’re just itching to leave us, aren’t you?” Fil nods. “Your mom and I will talk about it. Right, sweetie?”

Mom shoots Dad a skeptical glance. “Of course. We’ll talk tonight.”

 

I toss and turn in my bed, thoughts racing. Did the mysterious woman hypnotize mom? When is Filion going to leave for Baress? Why wouldn’t Dad tell me anything about the fire? I rub my face, sighing into my hands. I’m overthinking this.

My door creaks open. I freeze. Filion creeps in, hair pulled back and a finger to his lips. He tiptoes to my bed, sitting at the end. “Guess what?” he asks. I prop myself on my elbows, shrugging. “Mom and Dad didn’t tell us everything that happened at the market.”

“I know. I wonder-”

“This little girl tore through the market, screaming, with her hands on fire. She burned a couple stalls down.”

“How do you know?” I whisper, my pulse racing. Ordinary people don’t shoot flames out of their hands.

“I overheard it when I went to get milk. A few of the older kids witnessed it.”

“It was just a little girl?” I ask, sitting all the way up. Maybe they manifest their powers early. The book never mentioned how they got their abilities.

Filion shakes his head. “I think she was being chased. These kids kept talking about people in black carrying weapons.”

“The city guard doesn’t wear black, though. They wear gray and blue.”

“That’s probably why Mom and Dad told us not to leave the house after dark. With everything they saw today, they’re worried we’ll get in trouble.” Filion’s mouth creeps into a smile. “Get dressed.”

“But you just said-”

“Felix, remember at dinner when I mentioned seeing the gorgeous woman with white hair?” I nod. When did he get so interested in girls? “She ducked into the Witch’s Brew a few blocks away with a terrified little girl.”

I gasp. “You think it’s the Elemental girl?”

“Hah!” Filion looks around, eyes wide. “I knew it,” he says quieter, “I knew you thought she had Elemental powers! Let’s go, we can check it out.”

I hesitate. Mom and Dad will kill us if they find out. Then again, when’s the next time I’ll be anywhere near an Elemental? When will I get to make a difference? I jump out of bed and grab a tunic and pants. “Grab my bag,” I say, pointing at my canvas bag hanging next to the door.

Filion hands it to me as I pull my tunic over my head. “What are you thinking?”

I smile, taking the bag from him. “We’re gonna catch that girl and take her to the city guard.”

Fil snatches the bag away from me. “No way, Felix. We’re just gonna take a look and come home, that’s all.”

“But if we deliver her to the city guard, we’ll be heroes.” I reach for the bag, glaring at Fil.

“No, it’ll look like we kidnapped a little girl. Besides, what if she uses her-” The floor creaks. Fil and I freeze. Insects chirp and buzz outside. I hear the neighbors from across the backyard shouting. No more noises come from inside the house, though. Mom and Dad are still asleep.

“Alright, alright. We won’t try anything.” I’m whispering now, knowing if we get caught Mom will never let us go to Baress.

“So Voxace used to be the capitol of the world?” I ask, filling my plate.
“It would have been,” Mom says, “but when the Elementals overran Sauca, everyone abandoned the Unification.”
“That’s where all the cities would have become one big group?” I ask.
“Exactly, Felix,” Dad says, “we would have been a nation. Other lands far away have had nations for as long as I can remember.” The door creaks open, and Filion walks in with a brown jug. “Hey, Fil!” Dad says.
Filion shuts the door as Dad and I sit on the floor at the low table, plates full. “I’ll join you after I put the milk outside,” he says.
“Okay, don’t take too long.” Mom lifts a basin of water onto the stove and adds more wood to the metal firebox. She scoops chicken and vegetables onto her plate and sits on the floor next to the table. I take a huge bite and cough. My eyes water from the spice. Mom laughs. “Strong, isn’t it?”
“Yeah!” I gulp down water to soothe my burning mouth. “It doesn’t smell spicy, though.”
“You must have used the Saucan pepper. It has hardly any smell, but it’ll make any meal hotter.” Mom takes a bite. “It’s good, if you like spice.”
Filion walks back in and goes to the stove. “You used way too much pepper, Felix. I would have mentioned it, but you seemed so pleased with yourself.”
“Filion!” Dad says.
“What? It’s true.” Fil joins us with a full plate.
“I thought you said it was too spicy!” I hit him in the shoulder.
“It’s too spicy for you. I can handle it.”
“Filion, that’s enough,” Mom says.
“Fine.” Fil takes a huge bite. “How did you guys do today?” he asks through a full mouth.
Dad reaches for his cup. “Pretty good. We sold everything today.”
“Even the cima dolls?” I ask.
Mom nods. “Even the cima dolls. People bought them like they were going out of style. Good suggestion, Felix.”
“Zia showed me hers. That’s where I got the idea.”
“The girl next door?” Mom asks.
“His girlfriend,” Filion says.
“No she’s not!” I hit Filion again. He smirks.
“Enough!” Dad says, slamming his hand on the table. Filion and I turn to Dad. His cheeks are as red as his hair. “I don’t want to hear any more bickering from you two, understand?”
“He started it!” I say.
“Your father’s right,” Mom says, “Filion, you need to start setting a better example for your brother. Felix, quit hitting him. You know he’s just teasing you to get a rise out of you. We’d rather not come home to our children fighting after a long day, understand?”
“But you said it was a good day.”
“It was, but something happened today.” Mom takes another bite.
“Was it the fire in the market?” Filion asks, shoveling more food into his mouth.
Dad sets down his fork. “That was nothing.”
Filion swallows his food. “People kept talking about it in the street when I went to get milk. They said they’d risk going to the next borough for food if it happened again.”
“What fire in the market?” I ask.
“They terrified everyone,” Dad says, “people bought those cima dolls so they would feel safer. Cheap protection charms sell in a time of crisis, I guess. Let’s hope it doesn’t happen again. We’ll lose all our business if it does, and then neither of you two will go to the Baress School.”
I don’t understand why Dad ignored me. He always answers my questions, unless it’s about something serious and he needs to think about it. Before I can ask again Filion says,“The school’s not that expensive,”
“How are you going to get there, son?” Dad takes a sip of water.
“I’ll take a horse or a wagon or-”
“Those things cost money, you know. And I am not letting you hitchhike. The road from here to Baress is too dangerous.”
“If we have a couple more days like today, we might be able to send you with Zeke’s caravan next week.” Mom starts gathering the empty plates. “Just be patient, Fil.”
My brother sighs, then picks up my plate and his. “Okay.”
“What went down in the market, Dad?” I ask again.
Dad sighs, resting his arms on the table. “This woman with white hair stopped and stared at your mom. I asked her if she needed anything, but she completely ignored me.”
“I bet she was one of those old witches from outside the city. Did she have a big cat with her?” I ask. “Zia says they always have big cats on their shoulders.”
“That’s just it, Felix,” Mom says, “she couldn’t have been much older than me when I married your father. Beautiful, too. Absolutely beautiful. She stares at me with that eerie stare and then she whispered under her breath before walking away.” Mom sighs. “It’s been a weird day.”
“I saw her!” Filion smiles, and his eyes light up. “Yeah, I’m pretty sure I walked past her on the way back to the house. You’re right, Mom, she’s beautiful.”
Mom’s brow furrows. “In that case, neither of you will leave the house after dinner until all this blows over. That woman may be dangerous, and the city guard’s grown more aggressive the past few weeks.”
“But Fil said there was a fire-”
“That was nothing, Felix.” Dad pats me on the shoulder. “Just a couple ruffians causing trouble.”
I look to Fil, hoping for answers. His brow is furrowed. “Can I help you guys out in the market the next few days?” he asks. “I want to help get as much money together as possible.”
Dad smiles. “You’re just itching to leave us, aren’t you?” Fil nods. “Your mom and I will talk about it. Right, sweetie?”
Mom shoots Dad a skeptical glance. “Of course. We’ll talk tonight.”

I toss and turn in my bed, thoughts racing. Did the mysterious woman hypnotize mom? When is Filion going to leave for Baress? Why wouldn’t Dad tell me anything about the fire? I rub my face, sighing into my hands. I’m overthinking this.
My door creaks open. I freeze. Filion creeps in, hair pulled back and a finger to his lips. He tiptoes to my bed, sitting at the end. “Guess what?” he asks. I prop myself on my elbows, shrugging. “Mom and Dad didn’t tell us everything that happened at the market.”
“I know. I wonder-”
“This little girl tore through the market, screaming, with her hands on fire. She burned a couple stalls down.”
“How do you know?” I whisper, my pulse racing. Ordinary people don’t shoot flames out of their hands.
“I overheard it when I went to get milk. A few of the older kids witnessed it.”
“It was just a little girl?” I ask, sitting all the way up. Maybe they manifest their powers early. The book never mentioned how they got their abilities.
Filion shakes his head. “I think she was being chased. These kids kept talking about people in black carrying weapons.”
“The city guard doesn’t wear black, though. They wear gray and blue.”
“That’s probably why Mom and Dad told us not to leave the house after dark. With everything they saw today, they’re worried we’ll get in trouble.” Filion’s mouth creeps into a smile. “Get dressed.”
“But you just said-”
“Felix, remember at dinner when I mentioned seeing the gorgeous woman with white hair?” I nod. When did he get so interested in girls? “She ducked into the Witch’s Brew a few blocks away with a terrified little girl.”
I gasp. “You think it’s the Elemental girl?”
“Hah!” Filion looks around, eyes wide. “I knew it,” he says quieter, “I knew you thought she had Elemental powers! Let’s go, we can check it out.”
I hesitate. Mom and Dad will kill us if they find out. Then again, when’s the next time I’ll be anywhere near an Elemental? When will I get to make a difference? I jump out of bed and grab a tunic and pants. “Grab my bag,” I say, pointing at my canvas bag hanging next to the door.
Filion hands it to me as I pull my tunic over my head. “What are you thinking?”
I smile, taking the bag from him. “We’re gonna catch that girl and take her to the city guard.”
Fil snatches the bag away from me. “No way, Felix. We’re just gonna take a look and come home, that’s all.”
“But if we deliver her to the city guard, we’ll be heroes.” I reach for the bag, glaring at Fil.
“No, it’ll look like we kidnapped a little girl. Besides, what if she uses her-” The floor creaks. Fil and I freeze. Insects chirp and buzz outside. I hear the neighbors from across the backyard shouting. No more noises come from inside the house, though. Mom and Dad are still asleep.
“Alright, alright. We won’t try anything.” I’m whispering now, knowing if we get caught Mom will never let us go to Baress.

Felix, Part 1: Cooking and Conversation

Felix is a new series that serves to set up the world of Elements I started when I wrote the first draft of the book. It’ll be published here (mostly) weekly.  

Felix has always been fascinated by the world around him and unafraid to try new things. Ever since he read about the rise and fall of the Elementals, however, he hasn’t been able to think about anything else. 

I set A History of the Elemental Plague on the bookshelf where I had found it earlier. “Filion, where do books come from?”

My older brother pokes his head out of the kitchen area. “From the bookmakers.” His deep voice carries so much better than my reedy, girlish voice. He’s only twelve, yet he already stands a full foot taller than me. Hopefully, in two years time, I’ll be just like him.

“So how do the bookmakers make the books? Are they all made in Baress?” I ask. I walk into the kitchen, the wood floor rough on my bare feet.. Filion crouches over the wood-burning stove, placing a handful of twigs and leaves in the firebox. “You can’t put leaves in there. Mom said it makes too much smoke.”

“Mom’s peddling with Dad, she won’t be back for another hour. The smoke will be gone by then.” Filion reaches for the flint and steel, striking sparks into the firebox. “And to answer your question, bookmakers take all the pages from the printer and bind them in a nice, heavy cover. They’re made all over. There’s one here in Haven.”

“How do they bind them?” I ask. Filion continues to strike, but to no avail.

“I don’t know, Felix. Hah!” Filion pulls back from the range, where a small flame has started to grow. “Finally! This would be so much easier if I could shoot fire from my hands.”

“Don’t say that!” I punch his arm and say, “You’d be killed!”

“Relax, little brother, I’m kidding. I know I’d be stoned to death or sent to the Withering Forest or something terrible. Go grab some vegetables from outside.”

I roll my eyes. “Are you gonna make stew again?.”

Filion pulled his orange-red hair back, glaring down at me. “Yeah.”

“You always make stew! Let’s surprise them.” I dash to the pantry with a smile on my face.

“With what? I don’t know how to make anything else,” Filion says.

“I do!” I pull out a bag of red powder. “Let’s catch us a chicken.”

“No, I’ll catch us a chicken. You grab whatever else you need.” Filion rolls his sleeves up and pats my shoulder.

“But I-”

“I’ll be back in a minute,” he says. I set the powder on the table and dive back into the pantry. I grumble the few obscenities I know under my breath, just like Dad when he’s angry. I never get to catch the chicken. Filion doesn’t think I can stomach cleaning it out.

Setting bottles and bags on the table, I hear the thunk of a cleaver from outside. “Wow, that was fast,” I say to myself. He’ll have it plucked and cleaned before long. I race to grab a bowl and begin mixing everything together. “A dash of this, a couple pours of this weird smelling oil.” I say it just like Mom says it when she cooks. She’ll be so surprised to find something new on the table.

Filion comes back in as I’m stirring my concoction on the stovetop, standing on the stepstool to reach it. “One chicken, ready to go!” He smiles, holding up a defeathered chicken, a few drops of blood trickling from the neck. “Bet you couldn’t make it look this good.”

“Yes, I could.”

“Nah, you definitely couldn’t. So what now, chef?”

“Cut it up and throw it in. We’ll get some potatoes and carrots and put it all in a pan with some oil.”

“Already got ‘em.” Filion holds up a burlap sack.

“Great. I’ll cut these up.” I take the bag from him and dump it on the counter. “Hey, Fil?”

“Yeah?” my brother asks from the table.

“Why did you laugh when you wished you could shoot fire from your hands?”

“I didn’t laugh. Besides, no one’s been able to use Elemental magic since Sauca, where those warriors with the mysterious powers overthrew them.”

“You don’t think they could come back?” I scrape the chopped potatoes into the pan. “What if they did?”

Filion sighs, pushing the sliced chicken into the concoction of spices on the stove. “I knew I shouldn’t have let you read that book. You’re getting scared over nothing.”

“I’m not scared, Fil. I just want to know what we would do if they came back.”

“Hopefully some of those warriors will save the day.” He tussles my hair, stirring the chicken. “Don’t worry about them, Felix. They’re long gone.” He sniffs. “What did you put in here?”

I dump some carrots in with the potatoes and stir them up. “A bunch of stuff. Why?”

Filion puts more wood in the firebox. “It smells weird.” He lifts the wooden spoon to his lips and licks it. “Tastes alright, though. Maybe Mom and Dad will like it.”

“They will. What mysterious powers do you think those warriors had?” I add a bit more oil to the vegetables, stirring.

“I have no idea. Can we drop it?”

“I bet they could fly or lift an ox over their heads or-”

“Felix!” I turn to my brother. His eyes are wide, his lips tight. “I said drop it. I don’t want to talk about it anymore.” He sets his spoon down. “I’m going to get milk from down the street. Do you want anything?”

I shake my head, eyes on the pan. Filion walks out the front door. I take the chicken off the stove, shaking my head.

“Son? Is everything alright?” Dad comes in, red hair tied back. “Felix, what’s going on?” He crouches down next to me and puts a hand on my shoulder. “Filion didn’t even say hello as he left, just that he’d be back.”

“I don’t know. I was asking him about the mysterious warriors and the Elementals because we’ve been reading that book, and he said he didn’t want to talk about it.”

Dad brushes my orange hair out of my face. “Your great-grandfather used to tell Filion stories from when he lived in Voxace. Your mom and I had no idea he was telling these stories.”

“What were the stories about?”

Dad takes the pan off the stove. “These should be done by now. Let’s set them over here.” He places the pan next to the chicken. “Your great-grandfather told Filion what happened to his family when the Elementals attacked Voxace, of the terrible things he saw.”

“That was the last city to fall. I read that in the book.”

Dad smiles. “You’re a smart kid, Felix. Well, Filion never quite got over those stories. We bought that book to help him understand more of what happened, but some things take time to forget.”

“Hon, what’s that smell?” Mom came into the kitchen, pulling her auburn hair out of her braid. “Felix, were you and your brother cooking?”

I nod. “We wanted to surprise you.”

I look to Dad, who has eyes only for Mom. Mom walks over to the food, tastes it, and nods, brow furrowed. “Well, Felix, I am definitely surprised. When do you think your brother will come home?”

Dad stands up and kisses her. “He’ll be home soon.”

Mom smiles and feeds him a piece of chicken. “Okay, then. After a day like today, it’ll be nice to have a quiet dinner with everyone. We’ll wait for him to get back.”

Dad nods. “Good job, Felix. This is great.”

I smile. “Thanks, but Fil and I did it together. Can we talk more about Voxace? I have so many questions.”