One of the hardest things about writing (aside from the blank page, of course) is showing your work to others and taking criticism for it. Some people don’t handle it well. I’ve had people get angry and defensive, or flat out leave the group because they can’t handle criticism. They can’t handle other people picking apart scenes that don’t make sense, analyzing characters for a weird action done, or even commenting on strange dialogue.
And I’m not talking about the YUR DUM kind of criticism. The ones who are just there to make others feel badly about themselves, who sit around typing away on the keyboard the most insulting thing they can imagine, and don’t help the writer at all. Those people are useless to the writing craft.
I’m talking about the ones who are actively trying to help make your writing better. Constructive criticism, is the term.
But even constructive criticism, in its nicest form, can be hard to swallow sometimes.
For example, I recently got my comments back from the 2014 Sandy Writing Contest for the first chapter or so of my novel, FINDING HEKATE (unpublished as of yet). I got an extremely good score from one judge, but then scored so low on my second that they produced a third to critique the work. The third judge also gave me a lower score than I would’ve liked.
At first, I was disappointed.
I didn’t want to read anything bad about the work. I had already thrown it through the incinerator, bellowed the ashes away, and polished the remains so much already, after all. How could so much be wrong with it?
But then I sucked up all the damn courage I could muster and read the comments. Maybe something would ring true, after all. Maybe I’d get something out of it.
And, you know what? I did. I actually agree with (most of) them! Yes, some comments are truly off the wall, but others I can see how it would be confusing to a first-time reader. It made me look at my work differently.
And so, into the incinerator once more! It’s sad to rip apart a work, to cut certain scenes out and insert new ones… but it’s also exciting. I can re-visit the world, tweak the characters, and start off with a better bang. Granted it’s only the first chapters, but that’s where you really hook the reader, so I’m glad to re-visit it.
I feel like that’s how you should approach constructive criticism. It’s okay to be disappointed at first. But then look again. Maybe something they say will make you look at your work in a whole different light. I did, and I’m happier for it.
Random Aside: The Living Room is hosting another event tonight – 7pm at Jitters in Eagle River. If you have some free time on your Friday night, you should come! It’s a different experience every time.
Another Random Aside: Things might be changing around this little blog… you’ve been warned. (And, also, I have to make a final decision.)
Have a lovely weekend!