Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Meeting Stumbling Blocks

by C. LaRene Hall

Last week in the David Wolverton newsletter there was a quote, “Any idiot can criticize my work--and most of them will." This made me think about the five critiques I recently received for a contest I entered. I’m not saying that the judges were idiots, but it surprised me how different all of their comments were. In fact, they were so different that I went on my own quest.

I took a trip to the library to check out seven of the Magic Treehouse books. Because a couple of judges said my book was too similar to that series, I had to see for myself. From this experience, I learned that you don’t ever take someone’s word for everything. I was able to decide they were wrong. I wrote my book for a different age group. The only similarity I found was my story also involved a brother and sister who went back in time. The way they accomplished this is entirely different. In my novel, the boy and girl have to solve all their own problems. They don’t have a magical book telling them what is happening, or giving them hints along the way. Everything they did while away from home could have happened to any other child.

I learned that you don’t let the comments of other people stop you from doing what you love to do. Another thing David said was, “No matter how well you write, you’re going to find plenty of people who hate what you do.”

People criticize for many reasons, but don’t let any of them stand in your way of accomplishing something that might someday be great. David also said, “When you’re new as a writer, the fear of criticism can be one of your greatest stumbling blocks.” Please, don’t let this happen to you. Don’t be afraid – keep writing.


lachish said...

I am fairly convinced that it is human nature to feel compelled to offer a criticism (or suggestion for improvement of some kind) every time we participate in a process which involves grading or evaluating. Otherwise, we think we have not done our job. And when there isn't much to say, we stretch. We grasp. Sometimes we make it up.

I heard similar things from other writers who submitted to the conference first chapter contest. On my part, I was quite pleased with the comments on my submission. But there was one . . . I wondered if the evaluator actually read the story.

My consolation is that I know there are going to be a bunch of people who think the things I write are "ho-hum". And I know why: They are not as strange as I am. They just won't get it. They will never get it. And I am OK with that!

David J. West said...

I won in my category, but that was on the strength of 4 out of 5 of the judges critiques.

I think I read that in a lot other peoples comments there always seemed to be at least one judge who would bag on things. It made me start to wonder if it was real or not. If perhaps the 4 judges for almost everybody were encouraging and yet offered examples of what could be improved upon and the wicked fifth judge was there to get people to thicken their skins a little bit. I say this because for the life of me; I don't believe that my fifth judge had a clue.

I'm not bitter, I did win after all but that judges critiques only made me agree all the more with what Wolverton has to say.

Evelyn Curtis said...

Thank your for this post! The very first time that anyone critiqued my work was terrifying. It wasn't bad either, but the second person to critique my writing was a lot harder to take. After that person told me what he thought, I did not write for almost a year, until I realized that it doesn't matter what he thinks! I need to just write the story for me. If something comes out of it in the end, then great. Although my skin was thickened, I'm sure that I will have to brace myself for more assertive critics. I have learned that I need to stay confident in myself. Because without my confidence, I will be broken by the first negative thing spoken.

Krista Darrach said...

I was at a conference once when the guy (sorry I can't remember his name) said, "If you're here, you have the disease. You can't get rid of it, so don't try. Embrace it."
I loved that. Gave me a whole new perspective. Fear consumed me writing my novel. My lack of education made me feel like I wasn't worthy to put pen to paper (or fingers to keys-LOL).
Today I don't care. There will always be someone better than me, smarter than me and more accomplished. But I love to write - I have the disease and I've embraced it!
Thanks for the post.

Julie Coulter Bellon said...

As someone who helped coordinate the judges and the comments pages for the first chapter contest, I encourage you to take a second look at their suggestions. I assure you that it is very difficult, if not impossible, to get five industry professionals to look at your work and give a critique of it for the amount of money you paid. You can disregard their comments, but if more than one judge said something, I would take their comments to heart and change it. Those critiques are invaluable, but only if you take it in the spirit in which it was meant---to improve your work. There were some great submissions this year, and the judges worked very very hard---we're talking hours and hours of work---so I hate to see that work just tossed aside. Of course it is your right to do so, but I hope you know each judge was just trying to help. Congratulations on your submission and on a strong start to your story. I hope you submit something again next year. :)