Saturday, June 14, 2014

The Beauty in Criticism

I'm listening to 311 and a ginormous thunderstorm at the same time.  It's beautiful. 

I normally avoid 311 at night because it amps me up but I was feeling a need.  (If you don't know who 311 is, you need to stop reading this blog right now and listen to their music.  This is the current track I'm on: Strong All Along)

Anyway, back to why I sat down to write this blog in the first place.

I'm working on the revisions for book 3 of the DBS series (which has been retitled to Tectonic.  You'll understand when you read it.) and I'm still getting notes back from my betas. 

I love my betas.  All of them.  I love that they're not afraid to tell me the truth.  They're honest and thorough and I will be forever grateful.

When I was in high school, I had a Theater Coach who spent two weeks teaching us what it meant to "critique" each other.  Giving constructive criticism and also receiving it.  No one does anything perfect.  Ever.  It was our assignment to look for things our peers needed to work on and then tell them in a helpful way.  We also had to be able to listen when it was our turn to hear feedback.  Sometimes it was easy stuff like projection or enunciation.  Some things were harder to talk about and way harder to hear.  Like, character believability ("I'm sorry, I didn't believe you were alive.")

I feel like those two weeks were some of the most beneficial of my life.  Not only do I strive to give the best feedback I can to the couple of authors that I beta, but I appreciate receiving it so much more.

Let's be honest, it's hard to hear that your work is less than ideal.  We take it personally, we immediately get defensive and start coming up with excuses, reasons, and justifications for why they, the reader, misread/misunderstood our intentions.  Sometimes we attack back.  We talk down to their observations, rendering their opinion worthless.  Argue our points until they've fallen silent and finally back the hell off of our masterpiece.

But you know what happens when you do that?  You get dishonest answers.  People are afraid to tell you what they really think because they're afraid of how you'll respond.  And there you are, stuck with a mediocre, half-finished piece of crap that no one wants to read because you have a reputation for being "unreceptive."

May I never be called that by my betas.

I need them.  Like you wouldn't believe.  Do they always tell me things I like to hear?  Um, no.  When I get the notification that I have a new message from one of my betas, I take a deep breath before I open it.  Then I read it four times before responding.  Sometimes I have to talk about it out loud with Cap to sort of help me see what they're saying.  They never cease to amaze me.  Always, always, always seeing things I never saw, receiving things I didn't intend, and showing me the glaringly huge flaws that I have no choice but to fix.

I don't want them to blow smoke up my skirt.  That won't help me.  That won't help the story.  Sure, it feels awesome to have them looooove the story, and tell me how great it is, and that I'm brilliant.  Who doesn't want to hear that?  But I have to have both sides.  The good and the bad.

I'm not a great writer and I know it.  But I'm really hoping that if I keep going, if I keep listening, if I stay "receptive," I might just get passed this side of sucking.

Which brings me back to 311.  Positivity.  Get some.  Because your rough draft is not good.  Neither is your second draft.  If people are willing to tell you that, be thankful.  Stay upbeat, stay on course.  You have a story in your heart that needs to be told, they're trying to help you tell it so that it comes out as beautifully as you know it's supposed to be.

"Don't be afraid, whatever you got—show,
flaunt your personality let 'em know..
."- 311