When few print publishers were still reading unsolicited manuscripts, I received two letter rejections for The Swan Bonnet. I knew the book needed work but waited while working on another project. In 2009, I posted the book at Authonomy.com. This was the first site where I had posted a manuscript for reading and comment. I gritted my teeth and cringed. But I wanted feedback for that book.
Authonomy is a public site. Even the messages can be viewed from outside which unnerved me. But soon I learned that people just don't have much time to read unknown books and that it took awhile to be visible there. Writers can usually tell the stage of a manuscript when it might be an embarrassment with readers used to edited books. Out of the eventual 1000+ comments, most liked and "shelved" the book. Ten per cent, more than a hundred, expressed that they would buy the book in a bookstore. Most comments were helpful and honed in on a place that could be improved. Mean comments were a joke at the forum: "How can I get that reviewer?"
These days, there is a lot of cynicism about writing programs. I did a writing M.A. at the University of Minnesota. At the time, I didn't know many writers who were embarked upon a novel. Classes were actually similar to the experience at Authonomy with one difference - a writer (teacher) was present who had been published by a major or well-known publisher.
I finally got to the HarperCollins Editor's Desk at Authonomy where I would receive a review - the real thoughts behind that personally addressed reply with its brief reason for rejection. I'd written the book as a children's book originally and knew I was getting into trouble with the older characters having much of the storyline. While at Authonomy, I revised my protagonist to be at the brink of YA. I regret not doing my big rewrite before reaching the editor's desk. That would have meant stasis on the Authonomy charts. Having readers read your best is worth the wait.
the book came together when I settled into it alone and rewrote each chapter,
portraying Dawn as a teenager. That
changed scenes and required additional chapters which I felt were there all
along. I'd found that readers could
follow the decoy hat idea besides my historical characters. If you can't find a writing group in your
immediate vicinity, the internet is a good alternative. After all, successful writers can only know a
fraction of their readers in person.