“We MUST Protect Our Writing From Others!” –Marcy McKay, Positive Writer Blog
I was reading a blog this morning and the words never held more truth to me than today. I had recently entered a writing contest for the sole purpose to get reviewed. As part of the process you were given two reviews from various people in the industry: published authors, unpublished authors, previous contest winners, etc. If your reviews were high, you then were pushed forward in the competition to an agent and editor. Don’t get excited..I didn’t make it that far and here is the reason why:
I had one reviewer, a published author, who loved my story, character, and writing. She scored me pretty high, with a few exceptions when it came to my character. Her one criticism was to just enter a little more depth in her emotions to bring my story to the next level. Great! I can do that! Otherwise, she wanted more (of my story) and felt my writing was strong and the story intriguing.
I’ll take that!
The other review…..not so kind! She scored me very low. She found my main character too emotional and didn’t like the way my character handled her breakup! (She thought that my character should have been vengeful. Wow! Nothing personal there!) She also critiqued my words saying I was too…verbose. (My word, not hers, but had the reviewer had a larger vocabulary….I am sure she would have used it. Because apparently words like closure and catharsis are too clinical.) And apparently contractions are preferred. I used “I am,” instead of “I’m.”
“No one speaks like that!” She claimed.
Really? I do. But then again, I grew up in a world with no texting, emails, and barely an answering machine. (No, I am not that old, but these new communication devices/applications are fairly recent…it just seems like they have been around forever!) I actually had to write out things, and intelligently talk to people if I wanted to communicate. (It did not help that my father was a Jesuit trained educator! Shame on him for teaching me to communicate so properly!!!) Maybe my shortened writing skills are not up to par. But then again, I don’t want to short speak, hence why I became a writer!
I could go on about her critique but I won’t. She did not (or didn’t) like my writing. Ok. So the question begs itself, “Do I change it because of her comments?”
No! I will not take that!
“As a writer, you have a responsibility to protect your writing from others…” –Marcy McKay, Positive Writer Blog
The biggest piece of advice I got from Ms. McKay was: you have to decipher the advice your are given.You have to ask, is it about your craft, or is it just about someone’s opinion? Craft I can work on. We can all improve on our craft! But opinions….there are just too many…as my two critics revealed. What anyone can really do is take what you feel important or valuable, and then trash the other stuff. Did the second critique have valuable information for me? Absolutely! Not about my craft, but the reviewer taught me that some people will just not like my writing/story/character/words…and that is okay!
As writers were put ourselves out there in the most vulnerable way: we share our thoughts. It cannot be any more personal than that….well, unless we stand in front of people naked, but writing for me is this very act. So, when we hear something that is a critique we cringe and fall into our insecurities. I did that immediately when I told my girlfriend the title of my latest novel.
“Oh, that is awful. You can’t name it that!” She screeched.
I thought about it for about a day and then continued on with my title. Every once in awhile her words ring in my ear as I am saving a file under the title’s name…..but then I remember that I like the title! It is what it should be and I am keeping it. (Well, of course unless a publisher wants to change it…..I have no moral code!!!)
People are not going to like everything you do. But learning to believe in your work and feel confident in what you are producing takes a lot of thick skin, willpower, maturity, and the ability to decipher what you can learn from and what you can throw out. You need to be discriminating and not let people, no matter how close, change your writing unless you feel it is valid.
Now go on…take on your writing or whatever it is you do!