This week's blog prompt was about 'hurdles in writing'. Hurdles we faced, and how we overcame them. It sounded dangerously close to the writer's journey, if you read that last week, but there are hurdles that weren't there. Things that seemed less important, so I didn't think of them, or they weren't mentioned, and while that's true in some cases, I think this hurdle was pretty important.
Here is the link to my blog prompt group if you want to join us. We're on facebook, and I pull two new prompts from a jar every Monday. Blog Prompts It's old fashioned, but fun, and our blogs are never neglected unless we're over the top, busy.
Today's hurdle is criticism
When you take classes specific to novel writing, or even creative writing courses, you have your classmates to critique your work. I remember the very first time my creative writing teacher addressed critiquing. There were people arguing like cats the following week. I wasn't one of them because I'm more the passive aggressive type, rather than confrontational, but I was feeling the sting as bad as the next guy. I soon learned to look the pages over, and put the writing aside for a few days.
Some rules can be broken, but critiquing is important. It should never be avoided entirely. Why? Because...
- We don't always see our own mistakes.
- Criticizer's can find holes in the story or subplot you missed.
- Sometimes a criticizer will have a better idea for something specific in the story.
- Criticizer's find errors in the writing, or things that make sense to you, but not the reader.
When I left my writing classes to write, it wasn't long before I found myself with no one to critique my work. I had stayed in contact with a few classmates, but sometimes life takes over and people have to deal with their own lives, or they just don't have time. There were some writing groups around, but they were inconvenient, and the times didn't work for me.
It seems foolish to say I didn't think of the internet until I hit the end of my rope, but it's true. I couldn't figure out how it would work and if people could be trusted, but I did a search online, and found a number of groups. I settled into Scribophile.
Not really being a computer person, it took me a while to learn how things worked, but eventually with a little help, I settled in. I can't say it got better, because it immediately got worse. The criticism was over the top and I became hurt and frustrated, really fast. Information dumps were my biggest grievance at the time. I'm better with that now. I don't remember the other issues anymore, but I stuck it out and I'm a better writer for it today.
Not everything I was told was constructive. Sometimes people were downright mean, but most of the time I found something helpful, and I made some great critiquing friends. Some of them are successful Authors today, others are still working on that.
So how do we know who to trust? I found that when the criticism is constructive, it has a balance. The criticizer will tell you what you're doing right, and why it works, as well as what's wrong, and why it doesn't work. You might not always agree, and that's okay. Ultimately, you have to make the final decision about what's right for your story, but don't use that as an excuse to deceive yourself if something really does need to be changed. Sometimes writing is hard. If you need to put a critique down and go back to it later to make an unbiased decision, that's fine, but use criticism as a tool to help you become the best writer you can be, and to write the best story you can possibly write. You owe it to yourself, and your fans.