Monday, June 30, 2008

What Matters?

Posted by Lisa Marnell

Tonight, our writers’ group is meeting. As it happens, only my pages will be critiqued. The rest of the time will be spent catching up with each other, personally and professionally. I so look forward to their feedback. I am nervous to get feedback – Yes - but I intend to persevere until my novel is as good as I can make it. I will listen carefully to the positives (what works), and the negatives (what doesn’t).

Here are some rules I tell myself to live by when my work is critiqued:

1- I swallow my pride, and listen.
What others say about your work, matters. What you feel as they speak doesn’t.

2- It’s not personal, it’s business.
Feedback is what counts. You, a writer, need to understand how your work is perceived. It doesn’t matter if you poured your soul into this scene. It doesn’t. It may HAVE to be changed.

3- Don’t sweat the small stuff.
If someone makes a mistake with a minor character’s name, it doesn’t matter. If they are not convinced a major character may act the way she does, it matters.

4- Insist group members don’t hold back.
Each of us in the writers’ group asks for honesty. Lay it on me, I try to convey to Amy, Hannah and Lynne. I worry that if they are worrying about me, they may offer sugar-coated criticism. I don’t want that. I want the truth.

5- Be thankful.
If you are in a writers’ group that helps you improve your “product”, then you are lucky.

Recently, I’ve had more acquaintances and friends ask me for details about my two YA WIP novels. Some have offered to read my work. I’m so reluctant to hand them chapters because I know their feedback will throw me. If they like it, I may become too relaxed; would I let up on that drive I feel each day. If they don’t like parts, what then? Perhaps they’re not the right audience. Perhaps my work isn’t their style. I am loathe to change parts that “passed” writers’ group.

I have come to accept that feedback is not easy. I allow myself to feel proud when I submit pages. You should, too. The road to success is not easy.

To quote a wise writer I know, adore, and respect: "Writing a novel is hard work. Who knew?"

What is crucial is to remind yourself that some things matter, some don't.


Creative A said...

Hi :)

I really like this. It's very simple and true. Feedback is difficult when you're not sure who to trust...I go through this with my critique group. One lady is a journalist and she is always trying to make me "get to the facts." She murders my style. Another lady has a thing for melodrama, and if I do everything she says, my writing starts to sound like a soap-opera.

When dealing with feedback, I try to concentrate on the bigger stuff like you said, and also not to worry about something unless two or more people comment on it. This helps me filter the good advice from the bad.

Neat post.

MM said...

Critiques are so hard. It is so important to find out what readers think of your work and be willing to make changes. Its also hard to handle conflicting advice. Sometimes I don't like to let people read a first draft because I'm still forming my characters and story. If I share it too early, then the readers may change the work into their own. But if i share it too late its harder to make the changes. Its a challenge finding balance

Anonymous said...

I truly appreciate this post as it reminds us to keep things in perspective when receiving feedback from others. Critiques can be difficult to take if your skin is thin and your pride too sensitive. I often have to remind myself that it is for the good of my writing and thus I must remember to embrace all comments, even the negative ones. Thanks again for your post... it was wonderful to read!

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