Get Over Yourself

Hey everyone!

For this week, since nothing new or exciting is happening in my current WIP (I’m still working on my first rewrite), I thought I’d switch it up a little and focus on a subject every writer faces: criticism and feedback, and really, why it’s so important. (Disclaimer: I’m discussing constructive criticism here. I am not talking about people shitting on your story just for the hell of it.)

This is actually pretty relevant to my life right now since I just (literally like ten minutes ago) submitted a short story for my creative writing workshop. For those of you out there that have taken a creative writing course, you know that submitting drafts to be critiqued can be pretty scary. I’m currently taking my fifth and final CW class at my university, but I still get a little nervous submitting my work, and don’t get me started on actual workshop day. I’m practically a ball of sweat and fear.

But, unpleasant imagery aside, I cannot stress enough how important listening to the feedback you receive on your stories is.

A few months ago I wrote a post for my other blog (Fiction Facts) all about this and for your convenience, I’m pasting it below. Why am I doing this? Well, for one, it’s always fun to share a story about how much of a dunce I used to be, but I think it could also be helpful to any of you out there that do struggle with accepting criticism.

On a whole, getting critiqued is a good thing, and here’s why:

Back in the day, I wrote a short story that I thought was everything. I thought it was the best thing I had ever written and dammit I was proud of it. I was so proud of it that when I submitted it for my freshman year creative writing workshop I was so, so sure that everyone would love it. That nothing could possibly be wrong with it.

Big shocker! I was wrong. My fellow classmates did not think I was God’s gift to the writing community. In fact, they had quite a few major problems with my story.

But, did I listen to their advice? No. I knew my work was excellent. They just didn’t understand my craft (so gross––anyone else hating how pretentious that sounded?). I felt so confident in my work that I submitted it for another creative writing class the following semester.

Untouched. No revisions whatsoever.

And guess what? The people in that class didn’t like it either. But I was so arrogant I still didn’t accept this. I still thought I was a better writer than my peers, that I knew what made a real story.

In case it wasn’t obvious I was a total idiot. And reading this back I sound like a straight up assface (I promise I kept these entitled thoughts to myself, but the fact they were there at all…ohhhhh so embarrassing).

Well, flash forward a few years to about a month ago. There I was, all ready to create another piece for workshop. Before I began writing, I thought it would be fun to go back and look at the story I had written my freshman year.

And oh…oh did that story suck ass. It was so bad! I’m not exaggerating, I physically cringed whilst reading it over. I wanted to go back and slap my eighteen-year-old self across the face for thinking she was a BAMF when it came to writing. Because in just a few short years I had grown so much as a writer––not just in actual skill, but also in humility, in being open to the fact that I don’t know everything.

We’ve been over this, but NOTHING you write is going to be perfect, especially the first time around. And even after you’ve edited and revised to the point of actual pain, chances are it still isn’t going to be perfect.

But. As long as you are open to advice, as long as you are open to change, I promise you, you will become a better writer. Don’t be the arrogant dick I was. Accept the fact that neither you nor your work is a golden god and get over yourself.

Because, and I hate to say it, but if you can’t do this, if you cannot accept the fact that your story is going to need some work, cannot accept the fact that even as its creator you don’t always know what is best for it, then there’s a real possibility the only thing separating you from publication is yourself. Scary, right? Things just got deep. But it’s true.

Now, I’m not encouraging you to sell out or agree to changes that you know aren’t right. Use your gut here, but please do not ignore your head. Really think about the critique given to you. Go into revision with an open mind and you’ll know what suggestions have validity. And you know what? Your story will be better for it.

Don’t be afraid of change. Do be afraid of arrogance.

Well, there’s my little tale with a hearty splash of advice. I hope that this was helpful for some of you. I know how scary getting critiqued can be, and I know (believe me, I know) how much you may want to fight against what other people say, but if you open yourself up enough to listen––not argue or put up the defense––I promise you, you will become a better writer.

Good luck!

Now what?

Hai!

So, I wrote a draft…um…what now?

This is going to be a catch-up post. This means this one is going to be a bit long. I really want to start writing about things that I’m dealing with right now, but first I gotta recap what has already happened.

Don’t worry, I’m not going to hold it against you if you don’t care about all of this recapping, but future me will care about all this. And future me is a demanding bitch.

ANYWHO

Once I finished my first draft I wanted to jump into revising immediately. Keep in mind, I finished my first draft around 3 am––only a few measly hours away from my full day of classes. Did I care? Nuh uh. I started rereading right away.

Ah. Mistake.

As I wrote the first draft I came to realize that I would need to revise quite a bit, but reading it back…well let’s just say the anxiety set in. And it stayed.

Don’t get me wrong, I like my first draft. I actually really like it. Surprising, I know. I mean it’s riddled with errors and lacks many of the aspects of “craft” (does anyone else hate that word? I feel so pretentious when I use it) but it’s really not half bad. Still not good, but not terrible!

The anxiety came because I realized that the story I had wanted to tell was no longer the story I needed to tell. Basically, through writing my first draft I realized I needed to200 create a new storyline for my characters.

Do you get my anxiety? All that work, all that crying, all that self-doubt, all that hand cramping…and I’m changing everything? WHAT IS LIFE?!

This is when I realized I had to take a step back. I was too emotionally attached, too invested in the story I had written––the story that no longer fit these characters I had come to really know and the world they were a product of.

So, that’s what I’ve been doing. I’ve been taking a big step back. And it was really scary to do that at first, but now I really feel fine. Now, I don’t think this has anything to do with me being super disciplined (I’m not) or patient (I’m really not). Honestly, I think what it all boiled down to was the fact that I had others read my first draft while I played the “let things simmer game.”

Basically, I was able to release the death grip I had on my novel because I knew it wasn’t just going to sit on my computer for a month. It was going to be read, and I was going to get feedback from my most trusted individuals. So, things were moving forward, even if I wasn’t really doing anything.

Flash forward to last week. My mom finished reading my book. And she loved it! Big surprise, right? She’s my mother, she kind of has to love it. But, in truth, I wasn’t really looking for praise or even really constructive criticism.

But isn’t that why I sent it out for feedback? I mean yes, but remember, I was pretty confident I was going to need to change almost everything I had originally planned and written for book one, so while I appreciated those things, they didn’t really benefit me.

So, what was the point?

Essentially, I just wanted someone to understand my world so I could throw at them all the things I think I needed to change. Reading my book before I talked with them would 1. allow them to understand what the hell I was talking about (I write high fantasy…you ever try to explain a fantasy world to someone who isn’t familiar with it? Yeah, you feel my pain.) and 2. give them the capability to really tell me if they thought these changes would benefit my book.

I’m still waiting on my sister to finish, but my mom and I had a long talk a few days ago about all the things I was thinking about, all of the new ideas that had formed in my mind while I was letting the draft cool on my computer.

And it was SO HELPFUL.

I can’t even tell you how much I got out of our conversation. Just being able to bounce ideas off of someone who now really knows my world was just…ah priceless.

So, what am I doing now?

Well, as I said, I’m still waiting for my sister to finish so I can talk to her about the changes I want to make, but my waiting days are over. Over I tell you! I need to start revising.

Now, instead of feeling stressed about how thoroughly I’m going to have to gut my first draft, I’m excited! Really excited. Because now I know that these changes are for the best, and when I’m through with them I’ll have a draft one step closer to the story I want to tell. YAY.

Oh boy. Did I tell you it was going to be a long one or did I tell you it was going to be a long one?

Thank you for sticking through that, I appreciate it. Also, sorry if tenses got weird in there, it’s hard for me to talk in past tense for the recap while I’m also presently feeling some of these things…you catch my drift?anchorman-yes-jumping

But, now we’re all caught up! Yip yip.

So, I really have no plan as to what I’m going to be talking about next…I guess we’ll both just have to see what challenges I face as I revise! Goody.

Thanks for reading!

–Katie