Monday, 31 December 2012

Critical Impact or the Impact of Criticism Pt.2



Hello all,

So, as a slight refresher, I’m going to quickly rehash what I had said last time, and then we can be on our merry way to the new content.

Last week I went over what it means to have positive and negative reviews, and the different ways in which both sets of criticisms can be either helpful or useless. In a nutshell, either type of response can be useful as long as there is substance and specific critiques built into the comment. If you get a bunch of fluff, negative or positive, it can sure make you feel good (or bad) about what you’ve done, but it isn’t helpful in the long run; especially while you’re still trying to write or edit the content.

Now then, what we have left is the best ways in which you, the writer, should respond to your various criticisms, and whom should you be sending your writing to. Let’s get into it, shall we? When you first get back negative critiques of anything you’ve been working on, especially something like writing, where you’ve been pouring your heart and soul into the work, it hurts. You’ll want to argue, you’ll wince, you might nod a little in agreement, sometimes you just need to flop onto the floor and roll around, wondering how things went so wrong. I’ve been there a few times, I’ll admit it; although I’ve learned that the couch is a far more comfortable place to be miserable—hardwood is hard. The most important thing, though, is to remember that (for the most part) these people are not trying to hurt your feelings, they’re trying to help you do what you’re doing, but better than how you’re doing it now. These people are (presumably) your friends, and really do want to see you succeed. If you get back only positive fluff critiques, then either you need new people to give your work a read, or something else is terribly awry. Expect some negative comments; everyone gets them, even the biggest literary stars in the world.

You will probably get a few mixed reviews, where some folk hate certain parts that others love, or just flat out ignore. Keep this in mind, if people are ignoring a section, it very well might be boring in comparison to everything else around it. I’ve wrecked whole sections and rewritten them based off the opinion of one person (they thought it was boring and out of place, and everyone else just ignored it) but by the time I was finished, everyone liked what I’d done. Everyone won, even if they didn’t know they were losing in the first place.

And now to the positive criticisms. As strange as it might sound, I often find it harder to effectively use the advice someone gives me when they like something I’ve written. You’ll need to see what is specifically good about the parts that they most appreciated, and see how you can apply that angle to the rest of the work. If someone hates something, they’ll flat out tell you—if they like it, you have to figure out how to apply it to the parts that they might not hate, but don’t like quite as well. Sure, it’ll make you feel all warm and happy inside (which is actually pretty awesome) but you’ll have your work cut out for you to put that information to use.

As I mentioned last week, most everyone I’ve bumped into has wanted to see, read, or just hear about things I’ve been writing about, even if they’re kinda meh (my opinion on a few half-finished meh pieces). Now, it’s fine and dandy to hand out copies of your work, if you’re comfortable with it, to anyone who wants to see. They may be great people who love to read what you’ve written; they might be kind, and awesome, and super fun to hang out with, but they might also be terrible at giving you decent bits of advice. It takes a certain type of person to read your manuscript in a reasonable amount of time and be able to come back with specific things they hated, loved, were confused by, or wanted you to expand upon. Once you find someone who can do this, and you might go through a few, hold onto them—they’re useful. They might be family, friends, significant others, anyone you know and trust not to steal your work. Look high and low, sometimes you find these folk in the strangest of places. I personally use family, friends, and my girlfriend—she can be very straight to the point with things she doesn’t like, and oftentimes I need that. I can’t even argue my way out of it, as I often want to do (or try to do), and she won’t have it. People less familiar with you might fold to your standard “No, well, that actually is an okay section because of excuse A and B and maybe even C!” People close to you won’t fold, and that’s really what you want.

This post was actually was a bit shorter than I was afraid it would end up being; works out well for both me and you. I hate when people just drag on and on about nothing trying to fill up space, which I am in danger of doing if I don’t stop this paragraph right now.

Anyways, one last note—I had the most awesome pancakes this morning. If you’re ever in Vancouver, you must give them a try. I’ve put the link to their website in my “things I like” section. Go early though, they tend to be pretty much packed by about 9am.  

Happy New Year—see you on the other side.

-Trevor

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