Don’t Drink Your Own Bath Water.
My Dad had a saying that I think can really apply to my experience as a writer.
“Until you get feedback on your thoughts and words…you are only drinking your own bath water.” Ewwww! Right?
Critique groups are becoming very popular especially with so many Indie authors side stepping more traditional methods of publishing and self-publishing their own E-books. Suddenly anyone can publish, and more writers, like me, who do not have formal training, are feeling brave enough to venture out there. Because writing is a solitary profession, I spend a lot of time alone, and I realized the only way I could get feedback is to join a critique group.
I will be honest; I had a few bad moments after receiving the first critique of my writing. Never thought badly of the one analyzing my work because I was expecting I might feel a certain amount of rejection, especially if my writing, my baby that I have been raising for over a year got lamb basted. I have always looked at it this way: I write, rewrite until I am cross-eyed. I reread it; tweak it, until I think it is perfect, but unless someone else reads it and gives their opinion of it, then it is as my Dad said, I was only drinking my own bath water.
So with my Dad’s words ringing in my ears, I joined a critique group. It was a frightening experience for me to hit that ‘send’ button and shove my writing out the door to be reviewed for the first time. While I waited for a response, I told myself that not everyone was going to agree with or love what I do, and as the one who knew my style best, it was my job to take the feedback and use it to improve my style. Therefore, when the first critique came back, I set my emotions aside, put on my big girl smile, and read the critique.
However, big girl smiles are easier said than done when you get a critique that seems to rip your work to shreds as my first one did. I was embarrassed and horrified. It hurt so badly that all I could do was grit my teeth and read it, over and over in disbelief. After giving myself a few days to digest it, I felt better, and was able view the critique with a much less emotional and more positive perspective.
However, I did come away from that first experience a little wiser. I will do many things differently in the future. First, instead of agreeing to work with the first person who answers my ad, I will get to know a person before I let him or her review my work. I now think it is important to develop a relationship first. Learn that person’s personality, goals, beliefs, and ways of communicating. A lot can be misinterpreted if you don’t know a person. Plus, I found out that running blindly into a critique partnership can reap results that could make a potentially good writer want to quit writing all together.
Second, in the future, I will make sure that the person I partner with also writes and understands my genre. I do not think it would be a good idea to collaborate with some one who writes nonfiction, while I write romantic fiction. As with my first critique, even though we both wrote historical fiction, not understanding the period in history of each others story lines made analyzing awkward and less effective for us both.
Thirdly, I will make sure that my next critique partner and I both agree on some guidelines. There are as many varying points of view out there concerning this, as there are writers. As I found, not agreeing on guidelines beforehand can leave you feeling like the guy who unwittingly wandered onto a shooting gallery during open season.
I think the important thing to remember is that though feedback is necessary, there will be days when I slay the dragon, and days when the dragon slays me. Thank goodness, no one writer has ultimate authority over what is written or how it should be written. As I move through this process, I expect that I will become hardened and less emotional about feedback…I hope so anyway. I have to believe there are so many readers, each with their own set of likes and dislikes, that perhaps there is room in the world of writing for all who feel inspired to put jot down and share their thoughts, dreams, experiences and imaginings.