Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Broken down...hollowed out...rubbed raw

I took the big leap and chose a critique partner.
I won't name her because I don't have her permission and it's not necessary.

I sent her the first 50 pages of my finished book.

Although I did specify that I really wanted to know if the story was worth reading, she did a real edit on the first 10 pages and sent it back.
It was pretty brutal.
I was stunned and overwhelmed by her critique.
And in reality, I can't argue with it.

She sounds like a committed student to the English language and the craft of writing. She gave me many examples of what I should change. She included links to websites that I could learn from and book titles I should read.

I thanked her profusely for all her hard work and the time and energy she spent on helping me.

But now I don't know what to do.
I don't know if I can write like a publishable author is supposed to write.
I may just be too old and set in my crappy ways to learn everything I would have to in order to be taken seriously and not considered an amateur.
Just the thought of reading nonfiction books or going to classes makes my hands clammy.

I feel like an ass.

I mean I really put years into that story.
I forced other people to give up their free time to read it over and over again.

I don't know if I can justify being a writer if I will never sell anything.

I don't know if I can invest the time it takes for me to write these words if it's only going to be 3 or 4 people that will ever read it.

I just don't know.


  1. I bought myself all kinds of nonfiction books to tell me how to become a writer. And do you know what? They didn't tell me anything that you didn't already tell me. Cheer up, keep at it. You will get one agent or publisher that will give you a chance.

    I did lots of rerearch and no class or book can make you a better writer, sure they can give you new ideas and they can help you with the technical stuff, But nobody can teach you to write. You have the passion and you know your characters and plot like the back of your hands. A critique partner is good, but it can also be all the changes that butcher your novel. Maybe take some of her ideas if you want, but keep a lot of yours as well.

    You are a good writer, because you have me absolutely addicted to your blog. It took J.K. Rowling 30 rejection letters before a publisher took on The Harry Potter series. So, never doubt yourself and don't lose hope.

  2. Hi,

    I found you through eharlequin forums.

    Just wanted to add a note that, everyone goes through this phase! I had just mentioned about it on my current week's post as well.

    It is how you pick yourself up and forge ahead that matters. If your story is good, then no editor would pass it up. I didn't read any non-fiction books either, simply because, I am a "get your hands muddied instead of reading about gardening" kind of person.

    With CP's you can learn loads. Revisions hit, not only for newbies like us, but for published authors too ! The key to success lies in perseverance. All the best..

    Now, if only I could find a way to get my "stuck" MS to flow ;)

  3. You lookin' for an excuse to quit? Stop whining and get the next 50 pages done on the 2nd book. Your audience of 3-4 is waiting.

  4. The more you read and the more you write, the better your stories will flow. And there will always be someone to tear whatever you write apart; I don't know of any author or hobby writer who has it perfect the first time. Constructive criticism is meant to drive your writing, not to stop it. Step One to writing an excellent story is to start writing it!

    Don't mind the platitudes, just know that we're all there staring at our own red marks in our MS's wondering if we should keep writing or head to the freezer for some B&J to console us. I say keep writing and save the ice cream as a reward for a job well done!

  5. Thanks, to everyone, for your support and motivation.

    The problem is, it wasn't just constructive criticism.

    It's not the content, in fact, she never even mentioned if she liked the story, it was all technical.

    According to her emails, (yes Suz, I know it's just one person), my writing is strong .... BUT ....
    Too much narrative
    Too much telling and not showing
    Too much info dump
    Too many semicolons
    Too many POV changes
    Too many adjectives and adverbs

    ...and that was just the first 10 pages.

    Let me assure you that she is completely professional about the whole thing. Gives me lots of advice on how to improve. But she is convinced that writing is learned, that it is a craft.

    It just may be something out of my grasp.

    Perhaps I will post the first 10 pages for you guys to read and you can let me know what you think.

  6. Whoa, I don't know where to begin. While I think you can LEARN to be a good writer technically, there is something to be said for the innate ability that fluid writers have. If you know how to weave a fantastic tale, who cares if you can't remember where to put a semi-colon or if you should even use one at all. That's what editors are for. Sure, you can cross your T's and dot your I's, but if the story is utter $#!t, what's the point?

    I don't mean to go on and on, but I have heard a number of horror stories with regard to critique partners. Who are they? What is there background? Have you read anything of theirs and more importantly, did you like it?

    Writing is not something that the average Joe just decides to do, true story tellers don't LEARN to write - they only learn to write better. It is way too much work (blood, sweat, and tears) to pick up writing on a whim and decide to LEARN how to write. If you've got something inside of you that needs to come out, don't let anyone bring you down.

    I would be leary of that fact that nothing was mentioned about your style, the mood, the theme, the setting, the flow, or if they even liked it, do I have to go on?

    I've written two 100,000 word manuscripts and am half way through my third. Yes, I have improved since I wrote the first one, but it's still a damn good story and I am currently in the process of tweeking it in hopes of sending it out.

    Technically perfect writing won't help you find your "voice". If you can say something in a way that is unmistakably yours, the rest is fixable. Editors need a job too.

    Never stop writing - never!

  7. Hi,

    Oooh, critique partners!

    Bear in mind the old saying "those who can do, and those who can't teach" and a critique is only one person's opinion. Another might well provide a complete opposite assessment.

    Trust your instincts, and compare your work to published writers - when I say published I mean someone who has at least five books to their name through a mainstream publisher!

    A critique from a none published writer without a track record as editor or copyrighter has about as much value as stable hand heaping sh*t on a dung heap.

    A graduate in English can point to failings in grammar etc., and unless they themselves are a published author of non ficton/fiction they won't know publisher house styles, levels of conflict (inner/outer, plot momentum per genre, difference between HEAs and UHEAs. Basically that kind of person can only provide personal POV as a reader.

    Take it from me, look at someone's track record before handing over an ms to be critiqued. Know your chosen person has done the bizz and has the wherewithall to give an honest critique. Even so there's a difference between a helpful and honest critique, than that of cruel and brutal one.

    Chin up and keep writing!

  8. Wow. You guys sure do know how to show a girl a good time.

    Between your comments and those of my 'editors' by email I have surely been told to get off my pity potty and keep writing.

    Tell you what ... in the interest of being fair I will post my first 10 pages the way I wrote them and then post the pages that she edited and you guys can tell me what you think.

    Check for a new post shortly.

    And thank you for all the advice, kind words and support.

    I really appreciate it.


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