Taking editing in the spirit in which it’s intended, or Humber week three

24 05 2014

rocks1-2Back many years ago, I used to work for a boss who was capable of rendering me incoherent. I don’t know what it was, but when I would bring something I’d written into her office, she’s cut and thrash all of what I’d done and I’d go all quiet and destroyed and sad and broken and, silent, head back to my humble desk and plot revenge. In a passive aggressive way.

I was a published writer, I thought to myself. I had the clips to show for it. I wrote regularly for the US ARMY Times, I had articles in magazines all over. How dare she tell me how to write??? The gall.

But after a while, I realized she was right. I wasn’t writing in the right style. I was sloppy and overconfident. She edited and edited and I learned and learned. Eventually I learned to take criticism, to sacrifice my darlings without a qualm. Mind you, when I was sending things in to the magazines I was pretty easy about things, too, but they were paying me for my story and I was so over the moon I smiled and thanked them even as I signed over copyright in perpetuity for $100.

It was harder when I was writing stuff for work – for some reason it seemed more serious and I hated losing control of my output.

Later, I had the pleasure/dread of editing for others. It’s so easy to find a way to write things better, so hard to find a way to say things for the first go-round. It was hard to restrain myself editing for others, and I tried to remember how it felt when I’d get my things back covered in corrections. Not always successfully.

So this Humber thing is an interesting experience. I asked my mentor to be firm with me. I respect her, and love her writing. I want true feedback from her. So I’ve sent in a few things so far, and she’s been firm with me. Or so it seems…

I admit to a certain feeling of despair when I get my writing back covered with corrections, but on the other hand, I’m totally thrilled. I’m getting exactly what I wanted from this program, not false praise or that “great job!” stuff that is so common in writing programs, but real, good, concrete advice.

I also know I have a lot of work to do. What fun! Looking forward to it.

Maybe I’m growing up at last.

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Critiquing

20 12 2013

Into every Writer’s life, some critiquing must fall.

Fellow writers ask you for feedback, reviews, close reading, affirmation, whatever. And there you are, suddenly out on the end of a very thin branch, trying to determine how best to respond.
Sometimes you get lucky. The stories you are asked to read are well-written, need only a few tweaks, show promise. The requester genuinely wants feedback.

Sometimes you get regimented. The Canadian Authors Association has a great process for critiquing, following careful rules established over years to provide the most information with the least hurt. Everyone plays along and everyone learns.

And sometimes, you are stuck, gawping, at some really inescapably horrid writing, over which you spot the hopeful eyes of the writer, begging you to find something, anything, encouraging to say.
Some people can’t write. They do things like forget the noun-verb-noun basics of sentences. They write vignettes and call them stories (been guilty of that myself). They write chocolate-box stories so ridden with cliche the sugar hurts your teeth and you long for a Thomas Kinkaid painting to cut the ache.

And it never fails. These people are the ones who are most persuaded of their writing skills. They argue, get hurt, stomp off when you ever so gently suggest a rewrite…or they send you hateful emails when you review their self-published books and don’t give 4 stars…

There are only a few folks I trust with giving me feedback on my stories. I recently had yet another bad experience with a critique group and it reminded me of why I am so picky.

And it made me long for a group of kindred spirit writers to talk with.

Check out “Story is a State of Mind”, the intensive program, if you’d like some useful and encouraging feedback. The course, by Sarah Selecky, is one of the most useful ones I’ve ever taken, and I’ve taken a lot of courses. I’m going to miss it, now that I’m done. Great feedback, charmingly given. Just what a critique should be. I’ve taken notes, for the next time some soft writer heart asks for advice.








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