The Power of Constructive CriticismPosted: September 1, 2012
Being in the classroom setting amongst other writers, some very accomplished, at first made me feel quite insignificant. It made me wonder what I was doing there, or if I really belonged in a group with such talented people. I have always felt that my work was good enough for publication, but sitting in the midst of others, many of whom have already been published, and who all seemed so knowledgeable about the business of writing was a little bit intimidating. Suddenly, I found myself questioning the value of my writing, although I had never doubted my abilities before. There was nothing to do, except jump right in and hope for the best.
The assignments were challenging and that is how I approached them. My first assignment was to write an excerpt from a Western novel. Those that follow me know that short stories have been my forte in the past. I had never written an excerpt from a novel, because I have not yet written a novel. However, I had written a short story that was in the Western genre, which hadn’t turned out too bad, so I was confident that I could pull it off. In fact, I turned out a piece that I was pleased with, but turning it in to be critiqued by my writing peers made me more than a little nervous.
The challenge for me in this assignment was that I only had nine days in which to write it. I saw flashbacks of my horrible NaNoWriMo failure of two years ago. I didn’t have to produce a completed novel within that time frame, but I did have to form some idea of where the story was going. I had to have at least a vague idea of what the plot might be, and how it might turn out.
The piece I turned in received mostly positive responses from my writing peers, and the instructor’s feedback was encouraging, as well. It is amazing what constructive criticism can do to boost your sense of confidence. My fears of inadequacy were unfounded and my confidence regained. I used to do the critique thing online, but I got nervous about having my work out there where it could so easily be stolen, copyrights be damned, that I stopped posting on those sites. I had forgotten how much feedback can motivate you. Even criticism of your work can be motivating, when you can look at the suggestions of others and play with them to see what works. Having a set of peers, whether in the classroom, in a critique group or via online feedback can be quite valuable in keeping you focused and on track, providing motivation and other points of view, as well as in providing a sharper awareness and improving editing skills. When my schooling is completed, I think I will think seriously about finding a critique group.
Since, the summer semester ended, I have continued working to develop Delilah into more than just an excerpt. The eleven pages that I originally turned in have grown to twenty-five. Considering the small amounts of time that busy life has allowed me lately for writing, I think that I have made good progress and I am pleased with my content, as well. The challenge that I have set for myself now, is to turn this material into a full-fledged novel. I still have a long way to go, but the work shows promise, and I am hopeful for the results of my labor. I’ll let you know how it turns out.