Sunday, June 26, 2011

Improving craft

Getting praised for my writing is pretty much the best feeling in the world. I've put years of time and energy into completing manuscripts, and when another author tells me they love my story, or they found my characters intriguing, I get all warm and fuzzy inside. Like eating a hot-fudge sundae, only ten times better.

But not everybody is going to like my work. There will be people who don't identify with the main character, or find the plots confusing, or simply don't enjoy my writing style. And then there are the people who will tell me, in all honesty, what parts of my story aren't working.

At WIFYR this year, agent Mary Kole from Andrea Brown had this to say:

"It is impossible to get better and look good at the same time."

This statement really rang true for me, because I think it's a very important one for every writer to remember. If people praise your work and tell you how awesome it is, you probably aren't going to get any better as a writer (although there's the hot-fudge sundae analogy to consider). Criticism, on the other hand, can be really difficult to hear, but in the end it (hopefully) will help you improve your craft and perfect your manuscript. A year ago I needed praise more than anything else. I wanted affirmation, a reason to keep working toward the seemingly unattainable goal of publication. But over the past few months I've begun to thirst after criticism. If/when my first book gets published, I want it to be something I'm proud of. I want to show it off to everyone, knowing it's the best it can possibly be.

And more than anything I want to improve as a writer. Criticism doesn't make me feel awesome or talented, but in the end it's going to help my story, and five years from now I'm sure I'll be eternally grateful that none of my first drafts ever got published.

In the choice between looking good and getting better, I will always choose the latter.


  1. But hopefully as we get better we'll look way hot.

    Great post!

  2. That's so true!! Great post. :D

  3. I couldn't agree more! It's like your best girlfriend letting you go to the party (where the hot boy you're crushing on will be) with something horrendous going on with your outfit. Like your skirt tucked into your underpants. Or the tag on your bra clearly showing through your white blouse.

    No one EVER wants that!

    I'd rather my friend send me back ten times to get the outfit just right--so I can go to that party knowing the hot boy will look at me and at the very least, think I'm hot too. :D

  4. Hahahahaha Ali! That's the best analogy I've every heard.

  5. It's true how we crave that praise. Affirmation gives us courage. I go into a critique with my teeth clenched because, while I wish everyone would simply LOVE my writing, what I want most is to improve. And isn't it better to improve in front of our limited audience of critique groups and trusted professionals than to make our huge writing blunders in front of the whole wide world? I think so. :)