Thought for the week: When seeking support, accept surprises, avoid obstacles and don’t always discount strangers.
Aside from other writers, I seek support and opinions on my writing from family, friends and acquaintances. Interestingly, some of the most reliable feedback comes from acquaintances, not from my nearest and dearest. Why? I suspect the people who care about me, sugar coat their responses out of kindness. I understand. It’s hard to negatively criticize someone you like.
When analyzing feedback, I try to focus on common threads, tossing aside any commentary that falls too far to the extremes. Good news always comes first.
“Great character, send more!”
“I can’t wait for the next chapter.”
Finally, the rare and valued, detailed critique:
“I was confused by this part. I didn’t get where you were going with this or that. My favorite part was such and such.”
From the rest, silence, leaving me to interpret its meaning.
You thought it stunk and don’t know how to say that without hurting my feelings. Or you lost interest after the first sentence.
Silence leads to doubt and doubt has a way of coiling its slimy self in a dark corner of my brain, periodically raising its scaly head to hiss, spit or rattle its tail, lest I forget about it. The longer this goes on the more agonizing it becomes.
Do I really want to know that someone hated what I wrote? Absolutely! What I find out after probing is:
“I couldn’t find the file.”
“I couldn’t open the file.”
“I loved it, didn’t I tell you?”
“I was too busy to get to it.”
“I didn’t care for the story, but liked the other one you sent.”
So what does this mean? Positive feedback is great, but just as important, is the other kind, it reveals something about your future audience. You need a variety of test readers, including some lacking a keen interest in protecting your feelings, because assuming you publish your novel, readers who know very little or nothing about you will read your work, if you are lucky.
Readers of your published work will approach your story from a different perspective, bringing their own likeness into play, viewing it through their the lens of their history. They will not concern themselves with what you think or how you feel; they expect you to fulfill their wants, needs and desires. If you fail, will they be kind?
In the end, I gratefully take in to account all comments and then rely on my inner Editor and Critic, but sometimes, even she, tries to placate me.
Thank you for reading and keep writing!
Yet to come: The Benefits of Insomnia; My First Writers Conference; Query Letter Hell! & The ABC’s…Author Websites, Blogging and Contests, Oh, My!