Archive for the ‘Steve’s Words’ Category

Accepting Critiques with Grace

Posted: December 19, 2012 by sryeager in Steve's Words

Over the past two years with the Stonehenge writing group, I’ve taken away many lessons, ones learned both directly and indirectly. The biggest lesson, to date, has been on how to accept critiques with grace. I’ve probably not always been the best role model for it, but on reflection, I’ve developed a few simple rules I now employ to make the process easier on everyone involved.

1) Bite your tongue.
2) Not everything is about you.
3) Know what feedback you are looking for beforehand.

The first rule, bite your tongue, is one that everyone who has gone through the critiquing process has violated, including myself. But, shutting your mouth, and opening your ears is how to learn. Resist the urge to explain everything unless someone asks a direct question.
Realize that most people giving feedback are probably uncomfortable and not sure how you will take the feedback, so they hold back because they don’t want to hurt your feelings, or are afraid they might say something stupid.
The time to ask questions is once someone has finished with all they have to say. If you feel a probing question is warranted, ask it then, but otherwise, keep quiet and nod.
When someone gives advice on how your story could be better, don’t get defensive, instead, politely say, “I’ll consider it,” and do so. Some ideas may be good and with a group of storytellers, everyone there is already rewriting your story in their head.

The second rule, not everything is about you, is to understand that the words you write are not something carved in stone by God. If you want to have others read your stories, you have to be open to change. Everything you write can be fixed by changing words on a page, so keep a level of detachment. All of us will write stinkers and on the rare occasion, something brilliant. The trick is to learn to tell the difference.
You can’t take everything personally, either. While you might think you bled on the page, and after a reading, others are saying, “Meh,” then the problem is you, not them. Change. Realize not everything you write will be liked by everyone and failure is a better teacher than success. If all you are looking for is an atta boy, then a writing group is useless for any sort of personal growth.

The third rule, know what feedback you are looking for beforehand, is to know beforehand what questions you want answered. Lay those out before any critique. Maybe you are looking for grammar structure, or wondering if a character is connecting, or the motivations make sense. Give people in the critique group something to focus on during a read-through and I can guarantee you will get far better feedback.

It’s a shame there are so many of us writers and so few publishers…or are there?

In this mass-multi-media-mayhem of a world we thrive in, there have never been so many options.  Whether your goal is to publish traditionally, indie, or by any other means your creative mind can concoct, the world is at the whim of your will.

But, how do we get there?  Well, here’s the short answer.  Anybody can publish a book.  One click of your mouse can show you websites sleek enough to easily connect your story to the masses.

Here are some tougher questions.  Is self-publishing the best option?  How do we know when our writing is good enough?  And at what point should we stop editing?  How do we market?  Where and how do we find agents if self-publishing isn’t the goal?  And what is this elevator pitch/query letter/synopsis thing people always talk about?

Well, if you’ve read this far, are interested in our answers to these questions, or if these questions have fired new ones in the furnace of your mind, then read on.  We will explore every facet of writing our fingertips can click onto the page.  Have a question?  Good, we love discussions and debates.  Just remember to be respectful.

Stonehenge craves knowledge, so if you have something informative to offer, or a different perspective to pitch, please share.  The one thing I’ve come to understand is, the more I know, the more I realize I don’t know.  While the wealth of knowledge we carry is immense, we are always learning and adapting.  So click around.  Peruse our site.  You just might find an answer to that question burning in your mind.