|Photo by Moyan Brenn, Flickr|
At some point in the writing process, your work will need to be scrutinized by different eyes in order to rise to the next level. If that sounds scary and intimidating, it’s because it is. It’s as though you’re placing your Waterford crystal heirloom out in a hailstorm.
But no matter how well you think you write, or no matter how well you do write, the truth is, everyone makes mistakes and many of those errors can only be caught by another reader. When you write a particular scene, your internal narrator clearly knows what you mean, therefore, every time he reads it back to you, it makes sense. It may, however, still be quite hazy to someone else.
And, if you haven’t figured it out by now – unless you plan on writing something and taking it to the grave, never having seen the light of day – somebody’s eventually going to read and criticize your work. Better it be an experienced writer in a trusted critique circle early in the game than a reviewer canning your masterpiece-of-crap after release.
So for today’s Sunday Inspiration, I picked the quote above, and would like to address three components:
- Listen. Take the cotton out of your ears and put it in your mouth. There was a good reason you picked your CPs or beta readers, so listen to what they have to say. Don’t defend your work – at all – even to yourself. When reading feedback, it’s easy to think, “But that’s because…” STOP. That’s defending. Once you’ve entered into that mode, you’ve quit listening. You’re justifying why you wrote it that way, which evidently was unclear, so shut up and open your mind to the suggestion. Give everything consideration; it doesn’t mean you have to change it, only contemplate it.
- Constructive. This means promoting further development or advancement. Ideally, you’ve picked people who want to help you improve your work and who take that responsibility seriously. Lay down the criteria for critiquing beforehand. Do you want them to give a developmental critique (pacing, plot, structure, characterization), perform line edits, or find copy and grammar issues? Then choose people whose work reflects strengths in those areas and can relate those problems back to you effectively. “This bites” just doesn’t cut it.
- Criticism. The art of analyzing, evaluating, or judging the quality of an artistic work. Notice I said “the art,” not “the act.” Provide your criticism with grace. Your advice will be received much more readily if given with tact and consideration. Defenses won’t flair; earn your CP’s trust. Besides, everybody who reads any piece will perform the act of criticizing to some degree, even if it’s only to say to themselves, “This guy’s a genius!” You don’t mind that, do you? Then be willing to accept the offering from the person who says, “This dude can’t write worth a flip.” If he supports his thoughts with valid reasoning, then take it into consideration. Note all feedback, good and bad.