A few days ago, the five year-old in my life, was having a bad moment. Denied her request for Coke, she’d been crying for several minutes when she sobbed, “I’m afraid this is never going to end!” I know how she feels, though I’m not referring to tears (yet). My writing has been up for critique twice this week, once in my regular writing group and, for the first time, I submitted an excerpt for a “blind” critique at MissSnarksFirstVictim.
Although I appreciate any bit of praise I get (believe me, I need it) I also know that my writing skills will not advance unless I understand where I’m lacking. People who don’t have to look you in the eye, or even speak to you again, can be more honest in critique. Some of the comments I received in the blind critique were mostly favorable and helpful, a couple were not helpful because this was a chapter ending contest and the reader was confused not knowing what had come before this excerpt, another couple were not favorable nor helpful, but a few, though not favorable, were helpful because they pointed out valid problems. In the end, I learned what I thought was a good chapter ending—is not. It should be the opening for the next chapter.
Once I accepted this, I looked back at the previous scene and realized that I’d tied up that one in a pretty bow too, so it wouldn’t make a good ending either. But here’s the thing, rereading that scene I realized I hadn’t conveyed the real import of the character’s thought at that point. The addition of a single line, not only corrected that mistake, but gave a hook to lead into the next chapter.
I’d written, edited, revised, and re-edited this chapter in question, and still hadn’t seen these problems. So today I’m thinking about the time-frame for completing this novel and crying, “I’m afraid this is never going to end!”
10 thoughts on “My neverending story?”
Simply write down the words that come to you, never edit, focus, and stay away from TV and online games. Words from my 9 year old (see my current blog post for details). I would like to add cooking and housework to her list. She doesn’t know I blog, I have to keep it secret or she’ll use it against me … EVIL.
Needless to say, I feel for you. No matter how many scenes I write, I know it can be written better. It’s that knowledge that keeps my book from ever being agent-ready.
I’ll have to ignore your daughter’s first bit of advice, but the next three are good. I guess we should add, stay offline!
I love reading this. The hardest thing for me to conquer as I started writing (and I don’t do long work, only short stories) was my fear of criticism, which turned out to be a combinaiton of childhood self-esteem issues and adult pride. So every time I read about success and insight coming from critique, it encourages me.
On your second point, it seems to me there has to come a point when you say, “it’s good enough.” For creative people and perfectionists, that can be an almost impossible concept.
Pamela, I’m in a critique group and I can’t tell you how nervous I am when one of my chapters is up for feedback. And I agree with your second point, some parts of this work I feel are as good as I can write them, but others I’m insecure about because I know there’s something not quite right. The trick is to identify the problem, either yourself or with help. Then I can revise and let it go.
I have always wanted to write a novel, but I really had no idea of the time and hard work it really requires. I’m only just beginning to understand what an all-consuming business it is. It’s not easy to put something out there for real criticism. I think you have an excellent attitude about it.
It’s definitely not easy to have your work critiqued, but it’s necessary. I think it gets a little easier each time.
LOL Girls are so dramatic aren’t they? I’ve gotten so many one liners like that from my 3 daughters. But you’re right, I feel the same way with some of my books, particularly #1. Is it ever going to be right? Ahhhhh! I hope so. But if not, I know one day I will just have to walk away from it and send it into the world. LOL
I seem to be falling behind on responses here. Yes, girls are dramatic, and Emily sometimes more than most. It can be hard to keep a straight face when you’re trying to be firm.
I read an interview clip with a famous author (can’t remember who) and he said he never reads his work after it’s published because he would only frustrate himself seeing lines and words he wanted to change. That will be me! Yes, PLEASE let it be me … with a published book to avoid reading. 🙂
I will probably never be 100 percent satisfied with my work. I think part of the problem is that we are always growing and improving as writers, so our previous work always seems a bit subpar compared to what we currently know. I’ve come to believe that there is no such thing as perfection in writing. How can there be? But it will always be challenging and stimulating, and that’s why I love it. I don’t think I’ll ever outgrow it.
My stuff is up for critique next time, and I know it’s very flawed (much more so than anything you’ve ever written :). I, like you, am really beginning to be thankful for critics who take the time to tell me why it’s flawed (not just that it is). I value honest opinion so much!
Candice, see my comment to Kasie above. Yes, our work will probably never be perfect, so we just have to do the best we can at the time. A comment made at my last critique about one of my characters disturbed me, but inspired me to rewrite the beginning of my first chapter. It think it’s stronger and clearer now, so I can get back to the chapter I should have been working on this week.
I hope your next critique inspires you to new heights in your writing. We can only get better, which is rather exciting, isn’t it?