So, I had a big reality check this week. I submitted a rough draft of a short story to a friend just to get some feedback before I started the big edit to get it ready for publishing…and, I must say, I did not expect what followed.
The review was honest and heartfelt…and my friend was deeply disappointed.
When I read what she had to say, it felt like she was pushing daggers through my soul and my immediate impulse was to lash back. But, I know that reviews about your own work are usually less scathing than they sound when you read them the first time. So, I sat back, played with my daughter, drank some hot chocolate…moped for two days.
None of it really helped. That is, until the moment came that I realised WHY. Why she had been so disappointed. And why it had hurt so much to read all about it. I had not told her that it was a rough draft and that I intended to refine it quite a bit more. As a matter of fact, somewhere deep inside I had already decided that anybody reading my work has no business but to adore everything that I put into words. So, it had never occurred to me that anyone could not like my rough first draft.
Yeah, I’m a bit egotistical, aren’t I? It’s sadly something that most artists suffer from to some degree. Our talent is to create and that means we lay our souls bare to the eyes of the masses. And that, in turn, means that we have to defend our tenders in some way. My way is apparently ridiculous amounts of hubris.
In the end, looking at the criticism again and reading through that first draft of the short story again, it hit me: My friend was saying things I had been thinking while I was writing. Things I had seen when I went back to look at the story. In fact, there was only one thing that I didn’t agree with in her review…and that was just because I had been unusually cryptic about something in the story. Heck, if I had read that without knowing everything going on in the background, I wouldn’t have been able to connect with the story myself.
I’m actually not sure what I learned. Maybe, it’s to be awfully specific about the stage of the writing to the reviewer. Maybe, it’s to find a balance between humility and confidence. Maybe, it should be that I really need to refine drafts a little more before I send them to friends for reviewing. Maybe, it’s that I should listen to my inner editor a little more carefully when there’s something that is bothering her. All in all, I think I’m better off because of this whole incident. In fact, I’m seeing my friend later today to discuss possible solutions. And I’m excited to see her.
See, I have potential for growth! lol *strains shoulder to pat self on back*
If your friend is a certain mutual friend of ours, then I just might sit in my corner and sulk… We really ought to make a plan and meet up for drinks or coffee or something!
I think a lot of the stuff in this post is why I haven’t written anything in ages. But I’m starting to feel the urge again and, sooner or later, I’m bound to give in to it. It’s just the way it is.
Happy re-writing – I’m sure the finished product will be fantastic!
Heck, I don’t think I have the courage to show it to her just yet. I know how deeply she analyses and that she will point out all the flaws. *shudder* Then again, if she thinks it’s even half decent, I’d be over the moon.
Yip, I am that friend. That Natalie still considers me a friend, is purely because she understands that feedback is given to help her work to be what it could be. I was disappointed, because her earlier work is really very good. But, understanding that it was really a first draft, did help and yes, you should tell the person reading for you at what the manuscript is. I have also read Natalie’s “updated” first chapters and I am glad to say this story is now well on its way to be a great read.
Well done, Natalie!
Your help is much appreciated! Some days (like recently) more than others. 😉
How brave to enlist the help of a friend. It must have been humbling. I have a good friend who catches my typos for me, and alerts me immediately. She’s up at 3 most mornings, and is one of my first readers, so by the time MOST people read it, I’ve squared away blatant errors. As far as content, I feel like you; surely it’s wonderful, and everyone will love it. RIGHT? 😉 I appreciate when friends ask questions that help me clarify meaning, and improve the elements of story; I just don’t often get much feedback. Your example may give me just the dose of courage I need. This prompt today on My 500 Words will help nudge me in that direction, too.
You know, the trick to getting some real critique is to make sure that your reviewer/beta reader/whatever you call them knows that you expect them to point out mistakes you made so you can improve your piece (whether it’s a story, an article or any other piece of writing). If you put them under the impression that you can’t handle it if they actually point out problems, very few people will be willing to say anything.
Look. It’s hard getting negative feedback. It’s hard to remember that they’re trying to help you. You are probably going to feel betrayed after getting the first really brutally honest feedback, but it’s worth it if you actually use it.
Be brave. You can do it if you allow yourself! 😀
The challenge of letting others read your work is that they actually read it! Then they may have an opinion. Then they may say something about it. Then you may get hurt. Then you may want to never write again. Then you may need counseling. Then…
I think all of us writers know the pain of your experience. Glad you saw the solution. Loved the story because I saw me in it. Thank you for sharing.
I see the growth here. I knew I was a writer when I could admit not every word I wrote was golden. You will find immense freedom in that. It allows you to cut and revise/recast/revamp…everything. Because what you really want is a voice. Not a voice spoken. A voice heard.
Your post came at an opportune time. A number of us are preparing various works for publication and are putting, or are about to put our writing “out there,” some to friends, some to editors. We’re all going to need a bit thicker than usual. Thanks for reminding us. By the way, this post was well done — straight from the heart.
And some of us shouldn’t try to write on curvy country roads. Please insert skin after thicker. 🙂
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[…] touchy our species is about getting feedback, good or bad. A few years back, I wrote a post called Reality Check. If you need insight into what it feels like to get feedback as a newbie, that would be a good […]