I don’t like conflicts or confrontation. In interactions with people, the lengths I will go to, to avoid an argument or not to hurt peoples feelings, even though the critique might be valid, is almost extream. I admire people who are brave enough to give constructive criticism or go head first into a necessary conflict. I can’t.
But in regards to myself, I’m a practical person; I don’t sugarcoat things to make myself feel better.
When it comes to writing, I don’t believe that padding your story with protective layers of bubble wrap to avoid critique is in your best interest as a writer.
I sent Kodiak out to my first round of test-readers about two months ago. The feedback has been good but also very honest about the flaws of the story. Having your work dissected under a microscope is not an easy thing. It feels like you’re putting your story in the line of fire with people waiting to rip it apart.
But, the thing with this type of critique is that, if you dare to look at it and examine it, you can tell it’s almost always given with a genuine wish and interest for your story to become better. For you to become a better writer.
If you dare to look at the feedback without being defensive, you can discover so many things about your story and about you as a writer. I learned that:
- I should trust my instincts.
- My voice and skill as a writer have changed and improved since I wrote the first draft of this story.
- That reworking the first draft does, in fact, not mean you have the second draft, you have an edited first draft.
- While worldbuilding is good, I have a tendency to be a bit too wordy.
- I’m the only one that knows what’s happening in fifteen chapters, my readers don’t. I have to give them a reason to keep turning the page.
- With side characters, less is more. If you can cut one out without the story suffering, they’re not needed.
- The line between funny and unrealistic is a narrow one.
- Perfect characters are boring.
- Not to be afraid to make changes that will alter a big chunk of the story.
- World building is good, character development is better.
I learned a lot more than this. I believe good criticism can help you see your story. As you write you will eventually lose the ability to view it critically. You need people to tell you what they see, feel, think when they read and it probably won’t be what you think.
It’s scary. It can be disheartening and energy draining when you get a story back full of question marks and comments.
But if you can move past that first knee-jerk reaction, when you just want to throw in the towel and do something else, I think it can open doors in your story you didn’t even notice before.
When I first read through all the feedback, it sent my head into overdrive, and I wrote like crazy. Then my mind went blank, every single character stopped speaking to me. I felt paralyzed and overwhelmed when I realized that I have to tear this story to pieces and put it all back together again. How much work I have left to make this story what I want it to be.
But, I took a break, went back and looked through all the feedback again and then I started to see doors I could open, things I could do and how all of these opinions from people, sometimes conflicting ones, could help me improve this story.
I want to become the best writer I have the ability to become. I know it’s a lifelong project that will go on for as long as I choose to write. But I hope that for every draft I write I’ll become better. I can’t do that if I’m not willing to learn, and I can’t learn if I’m not prepared to face my flaws as a writer, what I need to work on and improve.
So far I think I have. I think every story I write is better than the last, and I believe, facing the critique I got from my test-readers have already helped me make Kodiak so much better, and it will only improve the more I work on it.
Asking for critique is like sending out your emotions on paper and asking people to stomp on them. But if you get back up, shake it off and stop acting defensive you’ll see that you’ve been given such an opportunity to better yourself.
So, thank you to everyone who had the courage to test-read for me. Thank you for your honesty, your encouragement and for taking time from, what I’m sure are busy lives of your own, to help me for nothing more than my gratitude. Your feedback has been invaluable and has sparked a new sense of creativity and inspiration for the continued work on this story.
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