Sunday, December 9, 2012
Pretend for a moment that you want to be an author. To do that, you need to have written something. And for that thing you've written to get polished and pretty and understandable, it needs to be seen by someone other than you. That way you can fix the things you don't know are broken. One of the ways to do this is to join a writing group where you chop your newly written precious into chapter sized chunks and then submit them for critiques one week at a time.
You know that old saying "Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me"? Yeah, that's a big fat pants-on-fire lie, until you get your armor on and you can listen to the feedback objectively. Unless, of course, you're only in a writing group because you are there to help the lesser folk who quite obviously need your wisdom. (more on that in a minute)
My point being that invariably, you're going to encounter one or all of these personalities:
The Egotist. He's condescended to be in this group for the moment because he's got nothing else to do. But none of the rest of you write on his level, and surely you couldn't be expected to have any valuable feedback on his own submissions. And since he's the expert on writing in his field, who are you to say that taking three pages to describe dinner at Denny's is slow and boring. That just shows your lack of skill and your definite need to improve your prose.
The Airhead. This person can't remember what is happening in your story after three paragraphs. If your submission is longer than that, they will get confused and not know what is happening or why your main character feels the way they feel or reacts to things they way they do. Sometimes there's a nugget of helpful information in there somewhere, but usually this person's feedback is something to save to read on a day you need a good laugh.
The Stickler: This person has read every blog and book, listened to every podcast, and watched every video. They know the rules, so watch out if you break one, because your story will be overshadowed by the fact that you forgot a comma, or started a sentence with BUT, or - oh no! - you used an -ly adverb!
The Meek: Too afraid to offend anyone, this person gives vaguely positive feedback that makes everyone wonder if they actually read the submissions or not. Everyone else in the group who is actually has a heart is then afraid to give them openly honest feedback for fear of making their great big puppy-dog-eyes tear up.
The Honest: These are my favorite kind of people. These are the ones that pull apart paragraphs and say, "This part is awesome" and "This part conflicts with what you said in the previous chapter. You either missed explaining something, or you've missed something." They don't pull punches, but they're not rude and condescending. They want you to succeed, and expect you in return to help them to be successful. They can take a joke, and they can tell a joke, knowing when it's appropriate to describe blowing up one's manuscript and when a cheerleading section is needed with pom-pom's and confetti.