Thursday, February 19, 2009

Sticks and Stones

Sticks and Stones...

I’m always telling my writing students that if they can’t handle harsh feedback then they are in the wrong business.

As new writer’s you need to develop a thick skin towards criticism so that you can learn and grow. When someone says, “Oh this is perfect.” They are lying. You read it right, they are lying. No one is perfect and only when we realize we’re not perfect will we learn that we always have room for more growth and understanding.

Newer students to the writing world are the hardest people to critique. You need to put on kid gloves and pamper them so they don’t break and run for the hills crying, “I’ll never write again!” Why? Because you were told that you need work?

The new writer knows that he needs work that is why he is taking so many writing courses, buying every writing book on the market, and plowing away at writing, because he knows he needs writing techniques that he hasn’t acquired yet.

I like to think myself an old shoe at writing but I am always looking for a new technique. I’m always digging for a new way to tell a story, a refined way in displaying my work. BUT if someone says, this didn’t work for me, well BRAVO! You caught something in my writing that I didn’t see and I thank them kindly for heading me in the right direction.

I try to be tough in my feedback of new writer’s. Why? Because they need to be guided in the right direction and if I don’t tell them, someone else will and they will become the better writer because of the critique.

When I say ‘tough’ I don’t mean that I am verbally mean to them. I point out what didn’t work for me, I tell them what I saw wrong and head them into the right direction by pointing out what would work better.

I notice more in new writers that they like to ‘tell’ a story. Every sentence tells a story. And you may ask, “Isn’t that what writer’s do? Tell a story?” No, we don’t. We never merely tell a story, we show sentence by sentence the accumulation of words that convey a story. Through descriptive words, we are going to show you a story.

A librarian reading a book might be telling you a story but the author that wrote the book is SHOWING you a story. Believe me, the author behind every story has taken harsh and brutal criticism about his work before it ever made it to print.

Allow me to say this too, editor’s are not going to be sweet and cajoling in their response to your work. They are going to take a knife and slice into your work like a side of beef. It is best for the both of you, author/editor that you form a bond, so that both are willing to compromise.

You may post your work to a hundred critique sites and each and every one will say something different. Not always what you like to hear, but with each critique it will be revised and perfected and ready for the editor. Then his/her knife will come down.

It’s the writer’s life and one that I love!


Anonymous said...

And this issue goes all the way to the top. I remember listening to a pod cast by D. Koontz in which he related an incident concerning a critique/comment he was asked to write for a new book put out by an upcoming author. Although Mr. Koontz felt he gave a favorable critique of the book, the author must have found something in his critique that stung. Years later, this same, young author was asked to review one of Koontz's new books and gave a scathing review that seemed more vengeful than anything else.
You can practically hear Koontz shrug in resignation. Critiquing among the professionals appears to be just as difficult as in a class.

Of course, you can't throw pencils if you're in the public eye. God forbid you should miss and hit a future editor of your work by accident.



JBarWriter said...

Thanks Joni,
For this wonderful article, reminding all of us that having thick skin is necessary, and reminding us too, that an honest critique is worth its weight in gold.

A Writer's Group

joni said...

Thanks my Raven! :-)
Your insight is gold to the writer, y'know!

And Joan, my new visitor, welcome and enjoy! I think these sites will only add to a writers cache of information and may we all add to the future generation of writers!

Here! Here!

Thanks for dropping by, and hope you visit often.