Friday, August 29, 2014

Family Involvement in Your Writing


I’m thrilled to be posting my first blog to Not Your Usual Suspects, and to join this “suspenseful” group of writers. Thanks for the invite. Now to the question of the day.

Should your family become involved in your writing? Some say they post a message on their office door warning not to be disturbed except in cases of blood or fire. No one in the household reads their stories until they appear online or on the shelf. On the other hand, I know of authors whose spouses cook dinner, help with research, and do many technical/online tasks. So, how involved should your family be in your writing?


It depends, of course, on your level of trust, time to train said family members, where you are in your life, and, of course, any experience they bring to the table. I started writing novels after my sister announced her first sale. At that time, my family moved and I decided not to take a job. Instead, I volunteered at my son’s school (actually to help him out, but shhh, don’t tell him) and wrote. I’ll admit that having a fellow writer in the family helped motivate me, but she was just starting out, too, and we both had much to learn. I wrote a lot before asking anyone in the family for help. After all, why should an educated (science) person like me, who had been writing various type things her entire life, need help? Boy, did I have a lot to learn.

My sister read my early manuscripts and being the loving person she is, was kind with her comments. She suggested things to work on and let me progress. The more improvement I showed, the more in-depth her critiques became. Now we read each other’s work and don’t hold back the punches. Then there is my mother we call the grammar queen. Can anyone say bleeding pages? She worked with a red pen for years and has recently progressed to Track Changes. Dad is a final proofreader. My brother and his wife once read an early manuscript and pointed out research things I’d missed, like it’s not stealthy to flip a rowboat at night with oars stowed inside. They later picked the topic of a paranormal series I wrote with my sister, and since have become great brainstormers.

Hubby was another animal all together. While VERY supportive of my writing, in the early years he didn’t quite “get” how to help. He’d read things I wrote and say it seemed okay to him. I’d have to quiz him to find the weaknesses. When I’d ask for suggestions, he’d give me one and then get offended, as though I didn’t like it, when I asked for more. It took years for him to get the concept of how to brainstorm. In other words, bandy about the first suggestion, add six more, and then combine a few to come up with the solution. I discovered the best time to get him into a thinking mode is to join him in a place with no distractions. The pool or hot tub works nicely. It has taken years, but he has become quite adept at helping me find over-the-top, but perfect solutions to issues. Now he can read for pacing, plot holes, and overall content. Best of all, he is taking up cooking dinner.

And then there are the kids. While in high school, they encouraged me, but declined to read anything. Once they graduated from college, the oldest started to read my action-adventure thrillers (with strong romantic elements, of course), and gave surprisingly accurate comments about pacing and research. Hmm, had he learned from osmosis? The youngest prefers my sci-fi, is still in cheerleader mode (we all need some of that), and claims to skip any sexy parts.

So don’t discount those around you if at first their assistance seems impossible or unhelpful. They might just surprise you. Oh, hubby just walked in and dropped the latest scene on my desk. “Needs more tension,” he said and walked out. Sigh.
Check out my Daphne du Maurier and Maggie award-winning book Repossessed (hubby had a big influence on that one) at www.sandyparksauthor.com. The sequel Outfoxed is coming soon, in which my military (pilot) son and his friends actually provided some of the research. Thanks for stopping by.    
Posted by Sandy Parks



15 comments:

Julie Moffett said...

Great post and love the family picture. :)

Marcelle Dubé said...

What fun!and congrats on the awards and the upcoming release. You're absolutely right -- family can be our first and best readers. And I hadn't realized that you and Julie are sisters! What fun!

Rita said...

Welcome to NYUS. Wishing you much success with your writing
IMO family involvement in our writing is like a making love to a porcupine—to be done very carefully.

Anne Marie Becker said...

Welcome, Sandy! I'm still laughing at Rita's remark above. What a picture that paints!

I've learned over the years which family members would be good for which tasks. My sister is fabulous at copyediting and knows my series, so she gets a sneak peek at the manuscripts for some story edits, too. My husband, while willing to read my stuff, is best put to use helping wrangle and feed children while I escape to write when necessary. My brother used to help proofread, and it was interesting to have a male perspective on pacing and description, but he doesn't really read my genre so it was mainly his copyediting that helped.

All in all, though, I'm incredibly lucky to have such a supportive and talented family - sounds like you are, too! :)

J Wachowski said...

Hey Sandy! Welcome!
Love your family photos and the description of how you trained everyone to help. Nicely done!
My family doesn't "help" so much, as support.
My husband provides large mugs of tea. But best of all, in the winter, when I work late hours and the house cools off, before he gets in bed, he warms a "grain bag" (which is a cloth covered small pillow-filled with rice) in the microwave and tucks it under the covers on my side. Ahhh, warm bed! He wins Husband of the Day everytime....

Sandy Parks said...

Rita you stated the truth so well with the porcupine analogy. I won't say getting their help was always a simple or easy task. Over they years they have learned along with me. J Wachowski, I'm glad to hear you have wonderful support and that is a perfect way to involve family (and that rice pillow- what a sweetie). Anne Marie - proofreaders are their weight in gold, too. They provide that extra assurance we need about our work knowing it is in its best shape. Thanks for the welcome Marcelle!

T. Parnell said...

Awww the insidious red pen. Only a true grammar Jedi should wield one. I think I prefer that to the modern tack changes on software. I get visually overwhelmed with them.

Sandy Parks said...

T. Parnell- Yep, those Track Changes which use that long dotted line to point to the offending grammar is a bit intimidating, but at least I can read the writing. : )

Toni Anderson said...

Sandy, Welcome to NYUS!! I love the idea of you involving your family. My hubs just started reading my books as I wrote them about 2 years ago and I value his opinion. You sound like you have a great resource there!!!!

Sandy Parks said...

Thanks for the welcome, Toni, and I suspect it won't be long before your hubby gets more involved as time goes on.

DonnaB said...

In my defense as a red pen wielder, I was a teacher for nearly 40 yrs and I can't correct anything without a red pen in my hand! (Sandy's Mom) : )

Sandy Parks said...

Lol. Thanks for checking out the blog, Mom. I love that red pen. : )

Julie Moffett said...

We love that red pen of yours, Mom!! xoxox

Cathy Perkins said...

Welcome to NYUS! My husband is great for cars, weapons and "what would a guy say in this situation?" Love the rest of my family but we're all happier if they wait until the book releases :)

Sandy Parks said...

Sounds like you have a great resource, Cathy. My hubby would fail at cars and weapons (guns), but planes and martial arts are his thing.