Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Yea! It's a New Week...

And it has already proven to be better than last week. Woo-Hoo!

I’m ready to tackle the projects on my To Do list, such as finish my novel proposal by Friday. Whew. That’s a big one, but it can be done, right? Right.

Today, I’m going through each page and keeping in mind some comments made by my trusty critique group…and even some comments made by contest judges. Yep, contest judges. Even eeeevil contest judges. Ever get a critique from one of them?

Okay, so they’re not really evil, but have you ever had a judge type up page after page of why your entry simply didn’t work for her? And you couldn’t bring yourself to read the comments because your vision blurred and your hands shook? Then you wondered if the judge even bothered to read your entry—that was how wrong she was about it? But, no. Wait. She’d listed way too many details about your story just to prove she did indeed read it. In fact, she didn’t seem to miss even one sentence of your entry when shelling out her criticism. And what made it worse: She was published while you were...not.

You have? Hey, me too! See, you’re not alone.

It’s all right. Take a deep breath.

Now, what did you do about it? Did you take those sheets of paper and feed them directly to the shredder or did you throw them in a drawer and tell yourself you’d read them again when you’re feeling more objective?

Well, here’s how I handled it in this particular situation: As much as I was sorely tempted to head to the shredder, I opted for the drawer. Boy, am I glad I did. After a day or two of separation, I was able to read the comments as a reader and editor, not as the author. I'd found that the first time I'd read it through, my eyes had gone straight to what she hated about the story and nothing else. When I had gained a little distance from my initial reaction (anger), I discovered she’d not only pointed out the good with the bad, but had given valid reasons why certain characters and motivations just didn’t work. Dang it, she was right.

It was the harshest criticism I’d ever received, but it turned out to be some of the best because she was correct in telling me what needed to be changed in order for the story to be even stronger. And that’s what we all strive for, right?

Do I think all judges comments are correct? No, I don't happen to think so. It has taken a little practice for me to separate the constructive criticism from the plain ol' bad criticism, but I've learned to be a bit more objective when receiving both kinds.

So, now that my skin has toughened up and I've moved on to other stories, I keep in mind the comments made by that judge and others, too. As long as I keep learning to become a better writer, I’m a happy camper.

All the best,
Michele Cwiertny

Oh, and if you’d like to read a great blog article on critique groups, then be sure to check out the one written by Louise Ahern on The Writer’s Vibe (see sidebar for link). :-)