Today, my MFA mentor returned 65 pages of my work. As I flipped through the pages, devouring her comments, her underlines, and her exclamations, I realized this is absolutely my favorite part of writing. Not the compliments, although those are lovely. For me, the big reward of writing a work is to see my readers connecting with it. To know that I ignited an emotion or sparked an idea.
When my professor wrote “Wow” or “oh, I didn’t see that coming!” or “very touching,” I felt this absolute delight at knowing which places in my work caused those comments. When someone tells me, my work made them laugh or cry, I ask, Which part? Because I want to understand what I did right, so maybe I can do it again in another work.
I know when I beta read, I tend to make more of these positive, this-made-me-LOL or this-line-just-made-me-sigh-with-contentment type of comments on printed manuscripts vs. when I beta read digitally. With a printed manuscript , I mark it up. I underline things I like. I put a check next to lines that I love. I bracket a whole section to tell the writer what I love about their writing. Since I do about 80% of my beta reading online, that’s something I need to work on in the digital space.
Because I think it is important to let a writer know when they make you feel something – aside from an urge to pick up a red pen. Tell them when their characters made you laugh or cry. It matters. A lot.