Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Patience Is A Virtue, Day #1

But it's certainly a stinky one.

I know some (okay, okay, a lot of) people have written about this before, but I wanted to touch on and then expand what's already been said. For the next four days, I'll be blogging patience.

This may come as a shock to you, but you need patience if you want to be a writer.

*Gasp*, you say. No, it can't be so!

But it is, my friend, it is. I think we're all aware that publishing is a turtle business in today's very-much-bionic-rabbit world (because even real bunnies, as cute as they are, aren't faster than my internet). So I won't go into that again. You need time, and patience, to pursue publication.

Today's topic is: the patience to deal with critiques. This is important because if you are pursuing publication, whether you like it or not, people are going to critique your work. Even if you never show it to anyone but prospective agents (a very bad idea), they will critique your work, too. A rejection is a critique. This is probably the hardest part for me, to be honest. But it's not even that hard, it's just something that varies day to day depending on my mood. I tend to go a little Misunderstood Artist and be all angsty when I get a critique that misses something completely, something I've been careful to include. But this is rare, and it serves a valuable lesson-- obviously, if I thought it was, er, well, obvious, but that person missed it, perhaps it wasn't obvious enough. So even though my reaction might be to set flames to my MS at first, once I step back and let my patience take over, I generally realize something very valuable came out of the encounter. It's valuable whether I use it or not, in fact, because when I'm writing what I'm working on next, I will keep those tiny (or huge) flaws of mine in mind.

Critique is invaluable to your success as a writer, both how you deal with it and how you use it. But you have to open your eyes to it and LET it help you, otherwise it's useless. My first instinct is debate. Those of you who have been in class with me know this. I am able to see most points, but if I don't, I want to argue, and have to restrain myself from defending my work and let the person say what they are going to say. I am working on this patience in myself. I want to be the best writer that I can, so I drink in every critique, every counter-point that comes my way. I may not like the way it tastes, but boy is it good for my health.

This may be easy or difficult to answer, but how do critiques of your work help (or hinder) you?


  1. What doesn't kill us makes us stronger?

    Early on I was a lot more sensitive to critiques and would jump in at every suggestion and start revising my work. I came to realize that everyone who reads has different opinions, tastes, levels of expertise.. Patience definitely comes in here--wait for all feedback before diving in and purging.

  2. Ah, the value in a critique. Sometimes it takes me a while to actually see the value. But it's always there. I've never thought of a rejection as a critique. Holy yikes.

    And patience. One of the things I'm constantly working on. It's so darn hard to wait. Patiently.

    Can't wait to see what else you've got to say this week. :)

  3. Good post. I always make sure to step back for a day or two when I get a critique returned. My gut instinct is always defensive and angry-- not the right way to approach something. Allowing that extra space, helps me return to the project and critique with a much more objective mindset. Thus, allowing my project to evolve into something even better.

  4. I was the same as Deb -- every time I got a critique, I'd change it. Now I think long and hard about whether the person critiquing my work is my audience and how much weight to assign to the resultant crit.

    Does that mean people who aren't my audience aren't valuable as critiquers? Of course not! But it does mean that their crit is coming more from what they'd like to see rather than what's established as a trope in my particular genre.

  5. Matt and his tropes. ;)

    I tend to put more credence in the big picture critiques, especially if the readers aren't my target (or if they're not writers). At my beta gathering on Saturday there were some little issues with my ending that had a big impact on how the readers felt walking away from the book. That's a big deal. But if they missed something that a historical fiction reader would have picked up that's a different story (pardon the pun!)

    And patience is hard! I'm not very good at it, much as I try to be.

  6. I love me my tropes! ;)

    Waste a day on TVTropes yet, Stephanie?

  7. Deb-- excellent point. I forgot to mention that.

    Elana-- it's a subjective critique, but then, aren't they all?

    Valerie-- time and space is a good thing. Nathan's post yesterday especially had me thinking about this.

    Matt-- I was going to say the same thing about your tropes :) But yes, knowing if they're your audience or not is also key.

    Stephanie-- you have waaaay more patience than I do waiting six weeks for your betas without touching your MS!!

  8. My betas were wonderful. I didn't use 100% of their advice but I used a lot and after a few times I learned not to take critiques personally. They just wanted to help me make my book as good as it could be.

  9. Most of my feedback has been positive, which is actually a bit frustrating b/c I was hoping there'd be something I wasn't seeing and go 'Aha! That's what I'm doing wrong.'

    As far as critique feedback goes, if there's a consensus, I almost always change it (um, hello, second person :); otherwise, I tend to be a bit more particular.

  10. I embrace critiques. And I've never taken anyone's criticism personally. I don't know why, but it doesn't bother me if people find a lot of problems with my work. Each criticism is like a piece of gold. Some I spend, some I stow away.
    What I'm trying to say is that I prefer if people voice their opinons rather than just saying, "It's really good." OR "I enjoyed it." Come on that's so vague and I know you're just saying it not to hurt my feelings.
    I'm babbling now. Happy writing!

  11. I think there’s value in every critique, even if it just makes you go through the motions of justifying why you chose to write how or what you did. If it weren’t for my betas, I’d still be at square one and without a clue.

  12. I'm of the mind that if a particular piece of my writing draws enough attention to illicit a critique, then there must be something there I need to give some attention (particularly of the critique is negative/constructive criticism).

    I don't always pay attention to the "this is how I'd write it" advice, but I do pay attention to the fact that something isn't working.

  13. Natalie-- and that's why i LOVE betas!

    Bane-- I know the feeling. It's both exciting and disappointing. But, to be fair, your work really *is* that good. I didn't lie! :) What bothers you about it? Email me if you want to discuss it.

    Anita-- like I was telling Bane, I think that more often than you think, those kinds of comments are true. But I completely agree.

    jbchicoine-- me too. I didn't know a darn thing till I joined my writer's group/ class. I'm SO glad I did!

    Renee-- that's a great point, too! I never really thought about it in so many words.

  14. LT, thanks for the support (and, really, I wasn't fishing for compliments :). It's more just the feeling that there's this certain 'je ne sais quoi' that comes with myopic inspection. I'm not sure if there are actual cracks in the foundation, it just seems that way the more I look (i.e., the relentless pursuit of fault -- that Nietzsche quote immediately springs to mind).

    PS - since you're a Cali girl, I dub you a Lakers/Kobe Bryant fan. You won't be ostracized in state, and you can enjoy all the vitriol thrown your way by outsiders :)

  15. Bane-- I'll take your word for it. But if someone throws something at me for saying that I'm a Lakers fan, I know who to direct the angry mob to :)

    Also, I do know what you mean. Just can't shake that feeling, huh?