Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Good advice to writers from Scott Eagan: Literary Agent (check out his blog!)

This agent always has really sound advice and it’s great to get an agent’s perspective when it comes to the writing business.  His blog is definitely worth checking out.
Regarding this current post, his words are a much needed reminder that our writing isn’t always perfect, even if we put our heart and souls into it.  That doesn’t mean we always have to toss out an entire manuscript after some negative criticism, but it does mean that the critique is worth listening to and the piece probably does need revision.
My first experience with a critique group was enlightening.  I went into it believing that my story was really good and that everyone would be really impressed.  Not so.  While the writing group members liked the story itself, it needed a makeover in order to draw the readers in.  I did far too much “telling,” rather than showing.
Their words were hard to hear.  I’m not going to lie, I went home and cried.  Then, I set the writing aside for a day and faced it again the next day.  Their words hurt a lot less after a night’s sleep and I was able to separate their advice from my emotions.  They had great suggestions.  I may not have taken every piece of advice, because in the end, I have to live with it, but I did heed most of it.  In fact, because of the criticism I was more motivated to prove to them that I could write well.  Fortunately (or unfortunately, depending on the situation), I can be quite competitive and instead of giving up, I saw this as a challenge.
I’m happy to report that they were completely right.  While I still love my original version in its own way, the new revised Chapter One of my book is MUCH better.  And I never could have done it without some harsh criticism.
It is hard to open yourself up to criticism, especially after putting your heart and soul into a project, but in order to grow, it’s necessary.  These are words I’m going to have to tell myself time and again as I get negative criticism, because while I’ve also received great feedback, I’ll never be perfect and some of my work will be better than others.  I even know this as I’m writing it.  Sometimes, it just isn’t working.  But that’s why I belong to a writing group.
I am lucky enough to have found a group of people with a true love of writing.  Their ages and backgrounds vary, which provides me with different perspectives and opinions and a lot of wisdom on writing.  As an English teacher, I would be a hypocrite if I couldn’t take criticism when I myself dole it out to my students.  And yes, while I may have to take a day and cry about it before returning to it for revisions, I know that I am benefiting at the end of the day.

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