& when it’s not
Okay, so you just know you’ve written the one. You’re trembling with excitement, on fire with ambition, ready to shoot past the stars. Hold on there. Have you ran your brilliant creation past your critique groups and beta readers and gotten their thoughts/pointers? Although you may be tempted to skip these steps, because you can’t possibly make it any better, do them anyway. That’s right. Resist the temptation to just hit send to that agent on your list.
Instead, step back, take a look, and breathe. Let the comments settle a while if you must, and then pare your work. Yes, that’s right, doing so will improve it further. I know how hard it is to put something you’ve sweated, cried, and driven yourself mad over, but it has to be done. And when you do so, keep in mind that the critiquer is not out to get you, someone who lives to cut others down, or tempted to steal your work. They’ve got their own.
Now, that’s not to say there aren’t some unscrupulous people out there. Do your research. Find a group that cares about you as well as your writing. Support is a major factor in winning the battle. I trust my cps. I’ve been the rounds with them, know when to listen, and when to stay with my vision. I can tell you one thing though: what they say carries impact because I know they really want the best for me.
I try to give that back as well. Are there times I don’t like what they say? Yes. Are there times when they don’t like what I say? Yes. But we get through it like a family does. The best advice I can give you is to put that manuscript aside and let what was pointed out sink in. Then when you go back, approach it with new eyes. Does that paragraph really border on telling? Tweak it. Is your character too passive? Go back and look them over. Are they doing their job? Is this really their story? Or does it belong to the poor boy, Jack? Is your prose overwritten? Weed, weed, weed.
It’s amazing how much we learn from book to book, if we let ourselves. One of the best compliments I’ve received was after advice to put what I was working with aside and go back to it. My cp simply told me, “Anyone can be taught to write, but you’re a storyteller. That’s a rare gift.” I treasure and hold onto that when the reviews don’t turn in my favor. This is the same person who gave me a key that I like to think will open the door to success for me one day. See, we are like a family. Support and constructive criticism.
Has anyone ever been hurt or put off by my comments in the past? Yes, I’m sure more than once. I tend to be honest and straight forward in a critique and that doesn’t always agree with some people. And some do take what I say the wrong way. I wish this wasn’t so, but it is. I’ve had relationships destroyed by the fact, and people ask me not to critique their work any longer. The hurt goes both ways. I was trying to help, they took offense.
Luckily, the ladies at YAFF (YoungAdultFictionFanatics) keep the communication lines open. Just remember to find someone to critique your work that doesn’t approach it as a tear-down session. They should compliment what you’re doing as well as point out the bad. It’s give-and-take.
Remember to digest what they say, and if it remains true to your vision of the story, or can improve it, go with it. If it deviates from how you want to go, weigh the pros and cons. Trust your gut. It’s hard to do at first, but the more you write, the stronger your belief in yourself will become. Eventually, you’ll learn which path to take. Don’t be so in love with your writing you’re unwilling to change it, but fight for what you believe in.