Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Taking Criticism

Hello all. It feels like ages since we last spoke. I have been busy re-drafting the first few chapters of The Dating Game.  I haven't actually written anything new for 8 days...but I have not been idle. I have been working on a marketing campaign for Sign of the Times (which incidentally will be FREE on Amazon this weekend - Fri through Sun).
So, my editor, Drill Sergeant Fi Broon sent me her comments on my first few chapters. Oh, how I love that sea of red. It reminds me of being back at school. Unfortunately when I do well, she doesn't give me gold stars, or even silver ones, like my primary teachers did!
Chapter 1, she started off tentatively just pointing out sections which weren't 100% clear to her as a reader (they were clear to me in my head..).  By chapter 2, by her own admission, she had become if not downright vicious, certainly she wasn't holding back any. Imagine a cross of a Drill Sergeant with a snarling Rottweiler and you're close!
So, how do I cope with criticism? Well, I am fortunate enough that Fi and I have been friends a long time, and also if you were to look on Wikipedia at the definition of pachyderm, it says alongside elephant and rhinoceros, Susan Buchanan... To be fair, if I spend any more time at this laptop, I will be the size of the former two also!
Many people ask me (other indie writers usually), how I can bear for my work to be revised/criticised so stringently by someone else. My answer is because I know that by having an independent set of eyes look it over, it becomes a much stronger piece of work. I probably take about 50%, maybe slightly more of Fi's suggestions. We call the WIP, The Rainbow, because of the sheer variety of colours we have all the different types of modifications in - deletions, additions, comments, unsure whether to change etc.
What is particularly good is when Fi points out, 'that section adds nothing', or 'Sooz, that is total waffle'.  Most of the time I agree.  Maybe I was going off on a tangent, or as she told me yesterday, 'that section can be used, but here's not the place for it' and she was right. We have a fun ping pong battle back and forth, where I tell her I'm not changing this piece, just because and that's it, no further explanation required. But occasionally, if she feels really strongly that what I am leaving in is detrimental, she will try another tack to get me to remove it!! I am generally good at taking criticism, but I know others are not and it can be a very emotional experience to have others review your work. There's a difference between someone doing a hatchet job and someone trying to give you constructive criticism - recognising the difference can be key.  Try to remember it's nothing personal - generally people want to help. It can be hard to take a step back, but keep telling yourself it's for the good of your novel. You don't have to implement the changes suggested, but it certainly pays to keep an open mind.
Right, I need to prepare for my promo this weekend. More next week. Have a good one, Sooz
PS here are the links for Sign of the Times - (UK) - (US)
If you download after 00.00 PST on Fri 18th (so 8am Fri GMT & 3am EST), you will get it for free.  Enjoy and feel free to leave a review, Sooz


  1. Great post. Taking constructive criticism makes us better writers. (A little constructive crit here... paragraphs. Please. It would be easier to read long posts.)


    1. hi Tami, glad you enjoyed the post & thanks for visiting the blog. Point taken. Was rushing out the door today as finished this up and hadn't checked my paras - note to self! Sooz

  2. I have a Fi as well and can empathize. I've been working with my mentor and coach for six years now. I remember when I first started working with him and had little in the way of craft mastery, the constructive feedback usually left me feeling like a failure for a good 24 hours. It was my blinding ambition and stubbornness that kept me going and he's made me all the better for it.
    Without fail, every time I'm approached or asked by someone who is considering writing for a piece of advice, I always offer the same answer - get help! What you think is great is probably crap. What you think is good is likely better, and what you think needs work means you're growing and are able to emotionally detach yourself from your work. Only when you have the ability to look at your own work objectively will you grow as a writer. Feedback and criticism are so necessary for growth. The unfortunate reality is that most writers only receive the feedback in the form of a rejection letter. Seeking out help during the writing process and not getting defensive about the feedback seem to be the exception and not the norm. Thanks for sharing and best of luck to you with your writing endeavors!
    Jim Moorman

    1. hi Jim. First of all, apologies it has taken so long to post this reply, but as you know, I've been kind of manic! I completely agree with your comments. I've gained a thick skin over the years (is that what those extra pound are!) but I know that many writers howl in pain when anyone criticises them. Don't get me wrong I have my moments when I want to bawl too, but as long as we are learning from it and constantly honing our work, we are going in the right direction.