Thursday, May 13, 2010

You Want Me to Kill WHAT?

Kill your darlings. Make it quick and merciful.

I recently joined a crit group, which has done wonders for my self esteem. Ah, the joys of receiving criticism. ;) No, really. Sometimes my ego needs to be knocked down a peg. And sometimes I need to be reminded to kill my darlings. Sometimes I need to be told which ones are darlings in the first place, those odd turns of phrase that I think contribute to the style of my writing, but are just weighing it down.

Do you need help to see which are your darlings? Or does your inner editor find them for you?

I've also found that the more feedback I get on my writing, the easier it is to read it from another person's point of view. To see what they're seeing, to experience what they're experiencing as they read. It's helped me to realize where I haven't succeeded in properly explaining my vision to the reader. And where I might want to change my vision to make things easier for the reader to understand.

Then there's the "Why didn't I think of that?" moment that sometimes comes after a particularly thoughtful crit. The analytical eye of someone you trust just might spot a better way to tell the story you've been slaving over, a story that's become far too familiar for its own good.

The truth is, that's why we need betas and critique partners. We are none of us infallible, spewing out perfect prose by the ream. Very few published authors got to that point on their own. It took editors, agents, and probably betas to help them get to where they are today. Hmmm, maybe we should start a "Beta Appreciation Week." ;)

Received any feedback lately that you've had mixed feelings over? I have to admit I have mixed feelings over every critique I get at first, even if it's sandwiched between compliments. (Mmm, compliment sandwich. *drools*) But with a little time, and a little fresh perspective, that sandwich usually goes down smooth.

Okay, I'm talking in food metaphors again, (Good Lord, I would so kill for an Abita right now) and that means it must be time for lunch.

See ya next time, y'all!


Shannon Whitney Messenger said...

Yes, crit partners are awesome--when they're GOOD crit partners. It sounds like you've found some. It's still a painful process sometimes--believe me, I know about the mixed feelings that come with some critiques--but the ends totally justify all the pain and suffering. Good luck with your writing!

Susan R. Mills said...

I also find that the sandwich goes down much smoother after giving it a little time to sit. I love the idea of Beta Appreciation Week! I think you should start a trend.

Indigo said...

Aha! I wanted to kill my Beta reader last night. Instead I swallowed a humble sandwich and actually listened. No, it's not easy hearing a critique on something you expected to get rave reviews on. It does keep you real. (Hugs)Indigo

Tricia J. O'Brien said...

The longer I'm in critique groups, the more I know how to get the most out of it. Sometimes, a person can be off-base, so you just let that slide. But other times, like you said, you're wondering how come you didn't think of that when someone nails the problem. And if there are several people who have trouble with a section you know it needs work. All of this makes me a better writer, and I couldn't be happier to have the opportunity to work with others.

Elana Johnson said...

Ah, yes. The crit group. Mine helps me so much. We just met last night, and this is one of the things we talked about. Putting aside your pride and your ego. Checking your darlings at the door. And really listening and trying to improve your writing.

And it's hard. You feel attacked, sometimes. But in the end, you might have to concede that THEY'RE RIGHT. And it will only make you better.

Glad you have people like that. They're priceless.

Tere Kirkland said...

Betas really are invaluable, aren't they?

Another thing I discovered was that printing out their comments helps me to stomach them better. Or maybe it's just the fact that the printed word seems so much more authoritative, since I immediately rankle a bit when someone disagrees with me via computer screen. It's not a flame war, it's a crit!

Shannon O'Donnell said...

Oooo, beta appreciation week - I like it! What's an Abita??

Have a great weekend! :-)

Robyn said...

My boyfriend is in school for Architecture, and he is constantly having his work critiqued. I am always amazed at how quickly he bounces back from these crits. I'm guessing it is just something you learn to appreciate.

jessjordan said...

LOL at your obvious hunger while writing this post :)

When I lived near Orlando, I took a writing workshop where we critiqued each others' work. Every time, I'd pour through the comments. On several of them, I thought, "Okay, yeah, I can see that." But in many, I wasn't quite so understanding. I'd roll my eyes, toss down the paper, and say something like, "Pffft ... Whatever. I mean, who are you to judge my brilliance? 17 metaphors a page RULE!"

Um, yeah. (Naive and amateur, much?) Thank God for critters! I need to get me some, but I want to wait until I get at least my full rough draft together. Plus, searching for a group that I trust online, writing in the same or similar genre that I am, is difficult for me. (I live in a tiny little town where writing YA isn't exactly popular with the locals.)

Love the post, and hope your lunch was delish :)

Lisa and Laura said...

Thank God for tough crits. We'd be nowhere without them. There definitely are stages to processing criticism and I like to think that we get better at it with each critique we get (and give!).

Tahereh said...

ahh it's so difficult to find a good crit partner, no?

the whole thing kind of scares me.. i've never even had one before.

*bites nails*

best of luck to you with everything!!

Indy said...

This is so true! It's nice to get constructive criticisms before you put your work out for the whole world!

Abby Annis said...

Okay, so I'm the biggest slacker lately when it comes to reading blogs. I didn't even realize you'd posted anything last week until a few minutes ago.

I ♥ my beta readers. :) I'd be nowhere near where I am with my writing if not for my fabulous critters. And I totally understand the "Why didn't I think of that?" moment. That's the worst. I've had a few of those lately and I totally beat myself up over them. Dude, perfectionism sucks. Good thing I have such awesome writer friends. :)

Tere Kirkland said...

This last round of revisions has been going awesome! It's weird, but I'm actually looking forward to getting critted again!

Oh, Shannon, an Abita is a local craft beer. They make a line of great types of beer, like a Jockamo India Pale Ale, Purple Haze, and the classic, Amber.