Monday, 8 November 2010

Ouch, the truth hurts: how criticism can make or break a writer

Because I'm a sensitive soul*, it took a lot of courage** to join a face-to-face writers' critique group.

I won't go into details about the group members, suffice to say they're a rowdy bunch of chickadees*** whose overriding goal is to get their work published.

Our styles are different and the genres include erotica, sweet, paranormal and historical, which has its advantages and disadvantages. At least it encourages a feisty exchange of ideas.  

On Saturday I went to my second meeting with the group, though it's been established for several months. This week it was my turn to have my WIP critiqued.

I quite like my story and have a fond affection for my hero and heroine. But after an hour of having my WIP verbally shredded and tossed into a dumpster, my feelings have changed. Now I look at my hero and see an insipid wimp that no girl with blood in her veins would want to jump. And my heroine is selfish, vacuous and two-dimensional.

My GMC sucksthe plot is ridiculous**** and I do too much TELL and not enough SHOW.

Shellshocked, I left the meeting and stumbled into the late afternoon drizzle. 

On the way home I stopped at a bottle shop and spent more than I usually do on a bottle of shiraz, and when I got back I bored Spanner into a coma with a self-pitying rant.

"My WIP sucks. I'll never be a writer. I'm shite. The world is shite. And you don't care about me. You don't understand me. I'm a tortured artist. Pour me another glass of wine, ya bastard." And so on and so forth until bedtime.

Now it's Monday, I've had time to reflect on the feedback - and to recover from a mild headache. I realise that all is not lost and, for the most part, my critique partners were right, though I wish they'd been a little more gentle and massaged my ego with a little more praise.

But now I know where I need to dig into my story to give it more guts. I've got to raise the stakes and not sit back and think: "Geez, I'm clever."

Writing is bloody hard work and so is the ability to accept well-intended criticism. You know how the saying goes - What doesn't kill you makes you stronger.

*Unable to handle criticism
**The energy to get off my bum and do something
***Like me, they are barking mad (in the most complimentary sense) 
**** No one at the meeting said this, but being the sensitive creature that I am, I reinterpreted every comment (sociopathic maybe?)


Anita Joy said...

You're a good writer, Shayne, it's just that you want to be a GREAT writer. And receiving and accepting constructive feedback (even if it was well soaked first, lol) shows you are well on your way.

Besides, I know your stuff and you're definitely on track :)

Shayne said...

Thanks Anita,
You are gorgeous.


Eleni Konstantine said...

Hugs on the feedback. Yes our delicate little souls need a little padding with the feedback. In uni we learned of the criticism sandwich. Placing a negative between two positives. Meant to help take in feedback because it's not all negative.

And don't read between the lines. You know we can be our own worse critics. :)

Good luck!

Anonymous said...

Hugs Shayne. I had terrible feedback on a ms that I thought was wonderfull just this year. And I think we all struggle to hear harsh critiques from others, no matter how advanced we are in this writing game. Keep at it, work those characters and remember at the end of the day, not everyone will think the same as your critique partners. Readers are a whole different kettle of fish, if you know what I mean. Tam x

Shayne said...

Thanks Tam,
I am strong, I am writer woman!