Thursday, 25 November 2010

The hardest part

I do manuscript evaluations all the time. I tell writers about their story, how it flows, where the plot is weak, strong, about pacing, characters, dialogue... the list goes on and on. I enjoy doing these, but at the same time it' so very hard delivering the news because most of the time the news involves some kind of negative feedback with an end result of rewriting.

I've had many reactions to feedback given; the worst is when a writer doesn't respond at all, so taken aback by what was said. This saddens me because clearly the writer isn't open to constructive feedback to make their book better, but it also mystifies me because they were willing to devote money to their passion/craft/pursuit and then drop the entire enterprise when they didn't get the pat on the back they were anticipating.

The first reaction is always some kind of anger, then depression, and then a desire to never write again, forget the entire business, and pretend it never happened. These are the losers, losers because they are losing out by giving in to base human emotions. It seems silly, but in order to make it as a writer you have to be willing to hear what other people have to say, and then perhaps learn something from it. Some kind of take away. By turning your back you lose out on having something change--your pov, your work, the way you write. You owe it to yourself to push down that ego and see what greatness can be revealed. I say it all the time: Check your ego at the door. There's no place for it in writing.

The winners are those who get knocked down, but then rise up again, refusing to be defeated. Writing challenges so many parts of ourselves. Setbacks are to be expected. But take that feedback, mull it over, and then try to gain something from it. You owe it to yourself to be stronger than you think. Tell that ego to take a hike because you have some learning to do. My ego takes a beating on a daily basis. But I am aware that it's there so I can tell it to move along while I wade through whatever ugliness I have to in order to emerge a better person, mother, wife, writer, editor--whatever.

The winners are writers like you, Tara, and you Kaleen, because you get it. You took what was offered, may have wanted to bolt, but have committed to yourself to see it through. And for that I am proud. It reminds me why I do what I do. I want to see you all succeed. I want to see myself succeed. I know how you feel, but I also know what you (we!) have to do to get there.

So, let's get to work on becoming better writers and improving our craft!