Hunger and writerly advice

hippo.jpg hungry hippo image by denistephenson

Advice can be a double-edged sword when it comes to writing - everyone critiques differently. I used to submit my work (queries, loglines, first whatever-amount-of-words, et cetera), then sit back and wait with the attitude that though it probably wasn't that good, it wasn't all that bad, either.

So when the advice/critiques/words of wisdom would pour in, I'd be shocked. It wouldn't take much for me to cringe, to freak out, want to cry, and feel as though I should have the right to defend myself, explain why I worded it this way or chose to do something a specific way.

But I am finally, finally learning. Maybe it's because I'm at that point (the point I thought I was at a long time ago, strangely enough) where I don't give a rat's whisker about what people say, as long as it will potentially benefit my work. I'm hungry -- close to starving. Considering how I felt a year ago (I was probably a tad unsatisfied back then), this is a wonderful thing. And I hope, even though I know it will mean I'll be more emotional and on edge, that in the next few weeks/months I will become ravenous.

I am ready to hear what people have to say, ready to take their advice in any way shape or form I can get it, to make it what it needs to be, get it where it needs to go.

None of this could be done without the tons of writers/agents across the internet offering logline contests and free critiques and query sessions and chats and so on. These people take time out of their busy schedules to pour over our work, to offer advice on how they think things can be improved. True, a few of them come across snarky, but for the most part, they are completely genuine in trying to help us improve. I can't even begin to imagine where I would be without these lovely people. Talk about appreciating so many people I've never even met.

So the next time you submit work looking for advice, remember this: none of us are perfect. We wouldn't be sending stuff their way if it was, right? And tone? Tone is hard to read. It's easy to take one person's point or question as rude or hateful, but that doesn't mean it was meant to be that way at all. Before you read what they have to say, take a deep breath. Make sure you have plenty of time for contemplation, and you're having a good day. Then make your notes, tally up those questions and points made, and go for it. Let it loose. Address everything, and decide what is worth changing and what isn't. Polish that sucker up, and send it back out again.

Be hungry. Heck, be voracious. That drive is what keeps us from giving up.


Andi said...

SOO true Jessica!
I'm of the opinion - LAY IT ON ME. the good, the bad and everything in between. If I don't think I'll get exactly that, it's not worth my time to submit, whether it's for critique or even just an opinion on substance, story, flow, grammar, readability, voice, whatever. If I want 'OH I LOVE IT *smilz-ear-to-ear* I'll give it to my mom. I need to know what I need to know and YOU know what that is!
After all, how can we ever expect to get published, or an agent to begin with for that matter, if there aren't those out there willing to tell you what you need to hear, dish out the good advice, what to do and what NOT to do, critique, read and help out - the process could really be never-ending, literally.
I am not very helpful publicly and am SO grateful to those who can be. Maybe someday I'll get there but for now, I just sit and suck up the advice all the while, plugging away at revising my WIP. Is there an end in sight? Hopefully, with all of the brilliance and talking heads of 'been there/done that', helpful agents and contest holders out there, yes.

Travener said...

One trouble with criticism is that is sometimes comes from two different directions. One person tells you to do this. Another persons says, for God's sake don't do that, do *this* instead.

As them Agent Folk like to say, this is a subjective business.

Katrina L. Lantz said...

I still have that itch to explain my work, rather than fix it. Thanks for the reminder that we NEED that corrective feedback, even if it stings! :)

Amy Lamont said...

I still feel that shock at times. I send my work to someone thinking I've finally gotten it right. It's perfect and polished. Then to find that they don't agree - ugh!

But then I pull up my big girl panties, and look at the suggestions. And no matter how many times I polish, I always find at least one suggestion that makes it better.

Great post!

Jessica L. Brooks (coffeelvnmom) said...

It's nice to know you guys agree with me, though a lot of times receiving that critique is easier said than done. And Travener, that's true. But like I said, we just have to fix what we feel needs fixing, and ignore the rest.:)