Monday, March 15, 2010

Constructive Criticism

Accepting criticism is hard, no matter who you. As a writer, it's been difficult for me to put my "baby" out there for others to see. Lately, I've had to learn to suck in my pride and accept help from others. It hasn't been easy, but it's been worth it.

My crit group, Writers in Paradise, has been supportive and helpful throughout my first draft. But I knew I needed additional help. A couple of months ago, I stumbled across Miss Snark's First Victim, a blog that has random contests where writers can anonymously place parts of their writing for others to view and comment. Excited for a new opportunity, I submitted an excerpt of of my manuscript in the Talkin' Heads contest.

Then the comments began. Fourteen people wrote essentially the same criticism over and over again: my characters sounded stiff and unnatural. Although I was frustrated, I didn't give up. I went back to my manuscript and started reworking all of the dialogue to make it sound more authentic (more like teenagers were speaking).

I decided to try again. This time I entered the blog's Secret Agent contest that examines the first 250 words of a manuscript to see if it "hooks" the reader. When I entered the contest, I knew that my beginning needed work. And I was right. Some liked it, but others thought it was "unremarkable." So I went back to my manuscript -- again -- and reworked the beginning. In fact, I changed my beginning so much that now it's in the present tense instead of the past tense.

The biggest lesson I've learned is that I need to stay humble and be willing to accept criticism. Revision is a long and challenging process, but it's necessary. After each new revision, I feel like my manuscript is stronger and better than before. I can't wait until I learn more at the two workshops I'm attending in April/May and June. After those workshops, I hope to be one step closer to sending my manuscript off to an agent.

In the meantime, I've started my second manuscript. It's a long, hard road as a writer, but I'm loving it!


Andria said...

I've loved watching your novel start out one way and become something else, something stronger. I can't wait to read it in its published form!

Gennifer said...

Just remember: everyone has different opinions. Criticism is good, but be true to yourself! :)

Suzette Saxton said...

Lovely blog! I think staying humble is a vital ingredient for life in general. :) A good friend once told me that you can tell if a suggestion is right for you if you feel excited about doing it.

Lady Glamis said...

Good post! I started out with criticism from Miss Snark's First Victim, too. It was a good experience. Since then I've relied on beta readers and such to get me through, but the past 6 months I've really been trusting myself more and more. I think we reach different levels, and it's good to take a step back and see where you are every now and then. Criticism is good, but always stay true to what you know is best for the work! That is easier said than done. :)

Charmaine Clancy said...

You have a great attitude to criticism. You have to remember that giving criticism is also a skill and some people are great at it, they can see the potential in your writing and help you to move forward with it, and others just put people down so they feel better. I just feel a bit sorry for the later. Sometimes online conversations lose the tone of empathy too I guess.
So good for you for putting yourself out there and taking onboard the messages that you feel are appropriate. Theres many different ways of telling the same story so theirs might not be right for you.

Crystal Cook said...

You are so right! Criticism is so hard to take sometimes. I just started telling myself all the horrid things I would hear and then when I got my critiques back I was like "hey not as bad as I thought!"

Just found your blog through Elana, it's great!