I am not good at waiting. If I’m waiting for something bad, the sooner it is over the better. Good things are slightly easier — anticipation takes the edge off for a bit but as the time approaches impatience sets in.
It’s been a long wait between blog updates! A lot has happened. I’ve travelled home for the first time in three years. I’ve received treatment for my endo that will hopefully have me back to being my usual busy self in a month or two. Most importantly of all, I finished the rewrite of Thorns and Fangs. And now?
I’m really lucky. I’ve had two close friends, one of who writes the sort of story I love to read, and the other who used to work as an editor in a publishing company, offer to read my manuscript. I sent it off to them about two weeks ago. At first, waiting was easy. I’d scan my inbox every few days in anticipation of glowing feedback, warm comments and encouragement. The longer I wait, however, the more certain I become that I am going to hear the opposite. That my plot is too self-indulgent, that my characters unable to be related with, and my writing poor.
So while I wait, I am trying to get myself into the right state of mind to meet criticism. What is that exactly?
I’ve got a close irl friend who writes. She loudly proclaims her willingness to accept criticism of her work, bemoans the fact that no one seems to want to give an honest opinion. She is sure that they’ve had a bad experience with someone in the past who could not accept criticism gracefully. ‘But I’m not like that!’
My one attempt at giving her criticism almost ended our friendship. It doesn’t matter what you tell her or how diplomatically you frame it, if it goes against how she perceives her work, she will argue you down. Maybe for her, that is part of the process. Maybe the disagreement allows her to hone her focus and in editing she will be take my advice in stride and find ways to apply it. For me, however, that kind of antagonistic approach is exhausting and I know better than to critique her work again.
Getting defensive is, unfortunately, something I struggle with myself. During the Love’s Landscapes Event, when all stories had to be edited, I kept a close watch on my reactions when I heard back from betas. I decided beforehand to accept every critcism gracefully. I would not be ‘that writer.’ So I acquired a lot of comments and feedback and a lot of mixed feelings that I decided to wade through on my own.
I was also betaing others at the same time. One of the authors I worked with, K.C. Faelan, often replied to my comments. I was mystified. Wasn’t accepting critcism gracefully not questioning your beta? But as I replied to her comments, I was forced to articulate the impressions I got from her writing more clearly, and identify just where and why her text had given me what feeling. A conversation took place. We geeked out about word choices and sentence construction. We poked fun at the characters and ourselves. It was a real conversation — possibly the most writerly conversation I had all year. And even when my suggestions ended up not being used, I felt that they were given every consideration — which is probably the biggest compliment you can give a beta.
I am still anxious about what feedback I’ll receive for my story. I am not sure I have K.C’s gift to challenge criticism without sounding ungrateful, so I will probably err on the side of silence. Fingers crossed, however, I use this chance to the fullest and find the courage to start a new writerly conversation.
More articulate and experienced writers than me on receiving criticism: