On Growing Up as a Writer – accepting criticism

I have recently realized (as in the last year) that if you can’t take criticism, you aren’t ready to send out queries. You aren’t ready to publish. Because if you can’t take criticism, then you aren’t ready to improve.

I wasn’t ready when I self-published my first book. I wasn’t ready when I self-published my second book. I wasn’t ready when I wrote book three. I was getting closer by the time I was writing book four. I turned a corner when I entered the 2010 ABNA contest.

I don’t know what it was. Meeting other authors. Receiving helpful advice and critiques from people who know the world of writing better than I. Or maybe I just finally grew up. But somewhere during that contest, I finally learned how to accept criticism. I learned how to take suggestions for what they were: suggestions. When you enter the realm of writing (and probably any creative realm) you put a lot of yourself into your work. By giving your words to others to read you put yourself out there for judging. And sometimes the judges aren’t kind.

But sometimes they are right.

And you need to be able to see clearly. You need to be able to see when they are right, when something does need to be changed, edited, tweaked, thrown out, or rewritten. You need to distance yourself during the editing process, because otherwise it will hurt too much. Throwing out whole paragraphs is painful if you can’t distance yourself, because those words are your babies, they sprang from your mind and they live on the page and you can’t delete them…. because that’s like killing part of your creativity… but sometimes those first words… sometimes they just aren’t any good. They need pruning. Some need to be tossed. Some, some few, might be perfect. Most will need revising.

If you can accept a critique from someone who isn’t close to the material, it makes your job of editing easier. If you can blink back the momentary tears, the fleeting defensiveness, the half-second of disbelief, you will find that you can take the good advice and apply it to your words and they will be so much better than you even thought they could.

Sometimes you can look at that critique and your response will be, “Nope… I like that bit just the way it is.” And that is fine. You don’t have to change everything based on one reviewer/editor/proof-reader.

I write this because I ask for critiques often. I ask for criticism on my fan page, and here on my blog, especially come contest time. And I don’t want anyone to hesitate to tell me something needs to be edited because you think you’re going to hurt my feelings. I may take your advice, I may not… but you aren’t going to hurt my feelings (as long as you aren’t attacking me personally, obviously). I welcome your critique. I welcome your critique. Because I want my writing to improve. I want my skills to improve. I want my talent to grow. So, thank you, to those of you who have helped me out with editing and critiquing the past few days. I really appreciate it.

~ jenelle

I love hearing from you, dear Reader!