P.W. Creighton

It's The Unanswered Questions That Haunt Us...

INTRIGUING OBSERVATIONS: Fear and Critiques

The Intriguing Observations series was created to gather some of the greatest supporters and bloggers to provide their own insight on all things creative both in their ventures and their techniques. This week on the guest series is another all-star supporter and outstanding wordsmith, K.T. Crowley.

Even Seasoned Writers Fear the Red-Penned Reaper

 

You've built worlds, created characters to fill them and storylines to tie everything together. A personal, creative collection of words weaved into art for the imagination—all formed together into emotions, actions and consequences that took you on a roller coaster ride as you molded them. You're a writer. You love your story and (for most) hope to have it out there for the world to read someday, whether it be as a NYT bestseller or an eclectic indie author. The only problem is, you're afraid—but why?
Because what you love so much, others may not.
It's natural. No one likes judgment, especially judgment that may end in rejection. No one likes to hear that something they've poured their creative heart and soul in to and revised and edited tirelessly may not be up to snuff.
 
When that fear strikes you, remember that writing is subjective, as with all forms of art. Not everyone is going to love your work. Even great writers like Stephen King have haters. But that doesn't mean you shouldn't push aside self-consciousness and put your work on the front lines. Sure, your best friend, sister, partner or co-worker tells you it's the next "Twilight" (should you have had the courage to ask them to read your work), but how subjective is their opinion? Would they really tell you what may not work in your writing by way of constructive criticism?
You owe it to yourself (and your hard work) to find out by entering the world of critiquing.
For those who don’t know, a critique is a detailed, subjective evaluation of your writing. It usually includes comments about plot, theme, dialogue, voice, characterization, contradictions, etc. Basically, they tell the writer (you) the things that don't work and holes that need to be patched.
Some critiques offer line editing, but the writer should be able to catch line editing issues before they do. Critiques give the writer the feedback and analysis they can't give themselves, exposing flaws in their writing, thus allowing them the information to perfect their work and give readers exactly what they need.
Even seasoned writers fear the red-penned reaper, but a critical part of the road to publication is learning to receive feedback. It may be tough to take, even scarring, but as long as those who are giving you the feedback are honest and respectful, constructive and courteous, it's a much needed step in giving your manuscript that glowing, polished shine it needs to succeed in the publishing world. Critiques should tear down your work (nicely) to help you build it back up properly.
I'll never forget my first critiquing experience. I'd just decided to pursue publishing my first manuscript and didn't know much about critiques. Through an auction, I won a full manuscript critique from a seasoned writer who was completing work on her MFA at Vermont College of Fine Arts. With butterflies made of steel beating my already tender stomach, I sent my beloved manuscript to her. We corresponded via email for about a month while she went through it, and I started to relax—that is, until she asked to meet me in person to go over everything she'd commented on. To make a long story short, she loved my writing, my story, and was impressed by me, but that was said after an hour long chat, a 15 page summary of issues and hundreds of blood-red pen marks and comments on my once clean manuscript. 
Did the negative comments hurt? Of course. Did I consider throwing in the towel and giving up? Sure. But in the end, she wanted me to succeed as much as I did and provided me the cuts and bruises my manuscript (and I) needed to heal to make my writing stronger. It was an eye-opening experience, one I am forever grateful for. Do I still cringe when I receive a critique? Heck yes. But my writing is better for it.
It's why I now encourage other writers in our community to seek the same, through social networking and my own website (ktcrowley.com), by offering a safe venue to receive constructive feedback on samples of their writing.
There's a large amount of writers out there who say things to me like "I want to be published, but I don't think I can handle the critics" or "I'm not ready, my writing’s not ready". You'll never know what you're ready for until you take a chance. I was once there and believe me when I say there is no time like the present to thicken your skin and go for it, especially novice writers who can take the feedback and apply it to future work. Almost all issues uncovered through critiques can be fixed, but you have to be open to it.
Do not be subjugated by critiques of your work, though. After all, it's your baby. You can take what a critique gives you and work with it, or you can chose to ignore it. You are the creative mastermind and shall remain so. And to be honest, not every critique is going to hit the nail on the head. Some can be harsh, over-critical and downright mean (trust me I know from experience). Again, it’s all subjective. But if you get several critiques with the same types of comments, you shouldn't ignore those. That's part of what makes critiques so invaluable; they see the issues the writer can't.
I personally believe the best critiques come from other well-read writers of similar genres who offer their feedback in what I call a "Critique sandwich"; something good, then the bad, then finish off on a positive note. They should believe in your writing and want you to succeed just as much as you do. A critique partner should be professional, willing, qualified and knowledgeable enough, and you should be able to do the same in return (should you form a partnership). Also, not every critique partner is going to be a good fit. Like all relationships, you have to mesh well. It may take a little trial and error to find that in a person/group, but the benefits are worth the search. There are several places to seek out critiques/critique partners:
  • Agentquery.com has message boards dedicated to finding critique partners.
  • You can put it out there via your own blog, Facebook, Google+, Twitter, etc. that you are in search of a good critique partner.
  • Writing associations such as SCBWI have boards that offer a place to post work for critique.
  • You can join (or start) a writing group locally (a great place to look would be your local library).
  • Approach a fellow writer you've come to know and trust.
  • Hire someone (provided they have the experience and references to back up their service).
Even a Google search can provide you with different avenues to find one. And you're always welcome to stop by my blog and join in one of the monthly critique sessions offered. 
So, what are you waiting for? You've got the talent and the drive, now it's time to go out there and get the critiques to make your amazing creation truly shine. Like with edits and revisions, your writing will thank you for it.
K.T. Crowley is a YA writer, reader, lover of chocolate, bloggess, and most importantly, a mom. When she's not chasing after her toddler, listening to the characters in her head or typing away, you can find her in the shower, where she does her most important literary brainstorming. K.T. is a member of SCBWI, a 2011 NaNoWriMo winner, and is currently seeking representation. You can find her on Twitter @KTCrowley, on Facebook www.facebook.com/crowleykt or visit her website at www.ktcrowley.com

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