Tuesday, May 11, 2010

The One That Got Away

My post today is in some ways a conversation with a very good blog that Annie Nicholas wrote yesterday on her personal blog. If you'd like to please go check it out. It's listed right there on the side bar. I'll wait here.

Okay? Are you back? Great!

In case you didn't read it, she's doing a blog series about the process of writing, what works, what doesn't and passing out some fabulous links to aspiring writers. Her advice is spectacular and I encourage you all to take it.

Some of you might not know, and those of you do might have long forgotten, that in another time and place four of the authors on this blog met as unpublished newbies in an online critique group. This group, at the time, was the best thing that ever happened to me. For the first time, I had someone else really reading my work. I had feedback, I had support.

I also had some bad advice. I say this, oh writer if you are considering a critique group, beware of other people's opinions.

My first week in this particular critique group I was introduced to a writer who write Paranormal Romance as I do. She read my work and literally ripped my newly finished manuscript to pieces, and not in a nice way. I hid under my bed covers for a week and refused to come out. I almost finished writing right then and there. It was horrendous. Later, I would take the attitude that I just didn't read what she did for my work. She didn't read me, I didn't read her and it became a mutually ignored relationship.

But, having said that, there were fabulous critiquers (i.e. the wonderful authors on this blog who were there with me...) I learned a ton. But I got into the habit of assuming every one else was write. It was actually Sandra Sookoo who said to me eventually, you know what, Rebecca, you have to like your own work. You have to believe in it. No one else will. This was good advice.

Yesterday, I was talking to the woman who does my website. We are reworking the front page, but this is a conversation for another time. Websites. I could write a book. And she asked me what I was doing about a category I had created for a series I've never written but had space for on the page. I told her to delete the category.

That book is the one that got away. It was the second book I presented to the critique group. Everyone had an opinion and I hadn't yet learned to value my own first. It got torn to shreds. I edited and edited and edited it to the point where it was no longer recognizable to me as being my own work.

At the point, I could no longer write it. My voice was gone. My muse went silent.

To me, it will always be the story that got away and a perfect example of the dangers of writing groups.

Please, dear writer, use them. They helped me enormously. I loved my time there and the relationships I formed are dear to me, amazing really.

But don't lose your own voice. Don't lose a story. Don't let it be the one that got away. You'll always miss it.

And follow all of Annie Nicholas' advice. I've found that she always knows what she talks about. And Sandra Sookoo too! And J. Hali Steele! And Sara Brookes! And D.L. Jackson! And Stacey Kennedy.....

Best to all of you in your writing adventures. Trust your muse. She's all yours.


Annie Nicholas said...

You're making me blush.
Good advice, writer's need a thick skin and to believe in themselves. The hardest step is letting a stranger read your story for the first time.
I was lucky. I posted my first chapter on a forum and a published author took some of her valuable time to go over it and give me constructive advice. I was so elelated she didn't say it sucked. LOL

Christa Paige said...

Oh, wow! Thanks for posting this Rebecca. I started out as a crit-partner for a crit-group, thinking I didn't have what it takes to write my own stories clean enough for publishing. I stuck around the group because I liked helping the authors there with their own manuscripts. I really enjoyed finding plot holes, repeated words/phrases, pacing and other issues. Nothing made me feel more thrilled than seeing their sparkly, shiny final drafts. Then, one day a close friend suggested I try writing too. The first manuscript I wrote was loaded onto the forum and everyone began ripping it to shreds. Suddenly, I had several different people suggesting different things. I got so confused and my confidence took a nose dive. I tried finding the important things and fixing them but in the end, I had to change the way I did edits because the group process was overwhelming. Now, I have a wonderful team of readers/editors who know what I need and how to help me best. If it weren't for them I don't think I would have jumped into the "getting published" pool. So, I totally agree with you on making sure the critiques don't destroy the love of writing/creating while at the same time having someone there you trust is a valuable asset!
I'm so glad I wasn't the only one feeling like that, again, thanks so much for sharing your thoughts.

Sandra Sookoo said...

Critique groups are good for writers who haven't been published yet I think. They're good for learning the very basics of writing and learn how to handle feedback for your work.. Once a writer finds their own style and hits their own groove, I think what happens is that writer out grows the critique group. However, alot of times, critique groups are full of frustrated writers who never made it into the publishing game or those writers who think they're God's gift to the industry.

You must beware and stay true to your heart and your work. I've seen too many writers who had potential be destroyed by this kind of "help."

A good writer will learn, in time in the industry, who to trust and count on because really, unless an author has been in this industry for a good ten years can't really claim to teach the craft of writing. There's just no way :-)

That's my take on the whole thing, but with anything else in this industry, it's all subjective, right? LOL :-)

Kristabel Reed said...

I don't belong to a critique group but had thought of joining one. Still think of it off and on occassionally. Eventually I realized I needed to just listen to myself and let whatever happened happen. Probably doesn't work for everyone, and I do bounce ideas off friends when I'm stuck.

Rebecca Royce said...

Really interesting perspectives going on here. So glad you all came by and commented. It's so complicated navigating the writer world as we all try to figure out our best routes...


Ben Langhinrichs said...

Very interesting post (yours, in this case, although I look forward to following Annie's posts). I have been in a critique group, and it has been wonderful and supportive as I started publishing poems and stories.

I say "has been" because it is starting to work less well. As a few of us in the group seem to be developing our voices and confidence, the critiques feel less valuable and more rote. Although I look forward to Annie's post on "Show vs. Tell", beginning writers can take this too far.

I am still part of that group, but have also joined another group, not exactly a critique group, but a forum with several published authors and several of us working in that direction. I am part way through my first novel, steampunk action romance, which my original critique group think is a bad idea.

But I won't let this be the one to get away. Thanks for saying it so clearly, as I had not found words to describe why I was pushing forward with it.

Rebecca Royce said...

So interesting that like Sandi your experience changed over time. I think the word rote is a good one. Don't let that story get away. LOL!! I'm waiting for Annie's Show v. Tell explanation too. Although she and I sometimes disagree on that subject. I actually like a little telling....


Catherine Gayle said...

I've been part of a few different critique groups since I started writing (including the first one you mentioned!). Each one has been valuable to me in some way or another, but I've found one now that really speaks to my current needs. That said, it is so important to learn to trust your own intuition when it comes to both finding a group and knowing what advice to take and what to toss. Some people are in it to make themselves feel better, and they do it by pushing others down. Others are in it to learn and grow, and to share what they have learned along the way. It isn't always easy to see which type of critique you're getting, but sometimes it stares you in the face.

Rebecca Royce said...

Meeting you and reading your work was one of the highlights of that group for me!


Ashley said...

Hey Rebecca! Sorry I'm late I had this person *poking* me all day LOL!!!!! I love what you say. I have had the same situation happen to me and I did give up, for a bit, when I was younger and it kinda stuck with me.

What I do, which I don't know if its good or not; is say I did my best, if you like it, you like it. If not, not and I move on. I don't believe I will be like Nora Roberts or Hannah Howell or any of those people, but I think I may do ok. And you know what, doing ok in the world of writing is pretty darn good.

Thanks for being a friend and I can't wait to work with you ont he anthology...I'm excited!


Sara Brookes said...

I've never been part of any critique group, usually just finding one or two people whom I can show something to. But I've found I actually prefer harsh critiques - as long as it's constructive. I have seen some that were just mean for mean's sake for no reason whatsoever and that's just plain uncalled for.

I have learned more than anything, to listen to my gut. Just because someone tells/suggest something be changed doesn't mean that I have to (unless we're talking about spelling or grammatical errrors, then it makes sense!).

I have always had two things to say about writing - let yourself suck in early drafts and write what you love (sometimes, regardless of others).

Annie Nicholas said...

I wasn't aware so many people had such negative experiences.
But you have to admit Rebecca that the group did teach us some things. It would have taken me forever to get published if I'd been left to learn on my own.

POV, punctuation, to be verbs were just some of the stumbling blocks. I needed somebody to point these issues out so I could read up on them.

Even presently, I like brainstorming with other authors and exchanging crits. I've still got so much to learn!

Rebecca Royce said...

Annie, I would freely admit that it helped me. I think I said I did, right? If I wasn't clear, I'll be more so. It was a huge help, but I took it a step too far. I guess I was just hoping people could take a look at this and see the good and the bad and watch out for the bad, which I did not. I think you were more, from day one, able to take a step back from it when I got really involved, in the beginning, with trying to please every critter. I can remember writing a chapter hoping one particular critter would like it. That was a problem. LOL. But maybe it's just my issue. I love bouncing ideas with other authors!!

Ash-Looking forward to working with you too. Poke. Poke. Poke.

Sara-I agree with you. I like a harsh crit as long as its not just mean for the sake of being mean. These days I like a one-on-one situation.

Sandy said...

Becca, there are good critique groups and there are bad ones. The bad ones think they know it all and they don't. The good ones will admit that what they think isn't right with your work may be just fine.

I've had critique partners who totally rewrote my work and not knowing any better I let them do it.

So glad you found such great partners.