Sunday, 25 March 2018

What to do with criticism. Or how I learnt to deal with it.

Recently I took an online course on writing short stories. I was looking for a push to get me going again after a brief hiatus and this seemed like the perfect way. One of the features of the course was the chance to have work read and critiqued by course tutors and peers. This appealed to me as I don't really have anyone who I regularly ask to read my work and give me hints about what works and what needs work. Maybe when I have a greater body of work that I'm happier with I may look for people to read things but at the moment I'm still finding my feet when it comes to short stories.
The peer review was very useful for a story I started a few weeks ago and have done some work on. The readers showed me the things they liked, the places where they were confused and I was able to straighten things out so it read 'better'. This gave me confidence and I continue to work on this story which is now more or less finished but still at the polishing stage.
I then submitted the start of another story, very much first draft, to the tutor and awaited their feedback. Reader, I asked for it! Lots of problems, lots to fix, the beginning of the story needs moving, too much showing etc. I was crestfallen. Hardly anything positive to say about it.
Now, not so long ago I would have weep real tears, deleted the story and giving up on any idea that I could be a writer. My writer's ego really was that fragile a year ago. Don't get me wrong, it hurt to read how much there was wrong about my story. After all, they're a bit like my babies and I can be a bit Tiger Mother about them.
This time I read his comments with a writer's eye. I looked again at what I had written and I could see the faults and the flaws. Yes, the story would be much tighter if I started it much later in my current narrative. Yes, I was doing to much 'head dwelling'. Yes, I needed to get to the point more quickly and succinctly. There was work to do but I could do it and end up with a  better story as a result.
So what have I learnt? That sometimes I need to step back, take another view and do the dreaded re-write. That first drafts are almost always not up to scratch. That time given to reading the comments of another reader is time well spent.
Finally, I learnt that taking the ego out and accepting some criticism is necessary to end up with a story that I am proud of, a story that one day may make its own way in the world.

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