Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Criticism--Helpful or Hurtful

I was asked today by a new writer how one can tell if her writing is truly publisher worthy. Naturally she thinks her stuff is pretty good. Her family and friends believe she is gifted. But those sources aren't exactly unbiased. So how does one know if he/she has talent, or just a loving, supportive core group who will love anything that comes out of their pen?

There's nothing wrong with showing your writing--or other gifts--to those closest to you. It's often difficult to resist the temptation when we are excited about our work and simply must celebrate it with someone. Our mistake comes when we believe that because Mom thinks we are the next bestselling author/recording artist/American Idol, the rest of the world will agree.

If you are serious about taking your talents to the next level, you must subject your work to an unbiased critiquer. Join a critique group at your library. Easier still for many people, join online groups of similar writers and ask for advice, help, and of course, critiques. This is very hard for a novice to do. In the beginning we see our work as perfect as is.

An aspiring writer once told me she would never let an editor near her work. She liked it as is and she wasn't going to change one letter to suit anyone. Needless to say, she is still unpublished. As far as I know, she is no longer writing at all.

Develop a thick skin and don't be afraid of criticism. I have a very good writer friend who is currently dissecting the first few chapters of my current WIP line by line before I send it to my agent. And believe me, some of her comments have been brutal. I would love nothing more than to hear what I write is brilliant. I would love to receive a letter from a publisher saying; "Teresa, we can't find a thing wrong with your manuscript. We are going to pay you an obscene amount of money to publish it just the way it is."

Instead of holding my breath while waiting for the grossly unlikely, I will open my heart and my mind to my friend's suggestions. Both of us want to see this book published, regardless of what it may do to my ego.

Every multi-published author I know--myself included--believes her work is better now than early in her career. I am almost embarrassed to open my first few books because my writing has improved soooooooo much since those early days. I think any writer worth her salt can see her weaknesses and wants to continue to grow, no matter how many books are on the shelf. We always have room for improvement.

Develop a thick skin before you send your baby into the world. There will always be someone who doesn't like it. Don't let this discourage you. Keep growing. Keep submitting and studying the market and you will have success.

Get back to writing!

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