anthimeria: Mask of feathers (Feather Face)
[personal profile] anthimeria
In my experience, an author who wants to improve, especially and author who wants to be professionally published in today's publishing industry, needs to develop both a thick skin for critique and the ability to know when your critiquer is right (most of the time) and when they're so far off base they're in the wrong ballpark.

I use an online forum to get crituqes for my query letters, pitches and synopses, because my meatspace friends all have jobs and lives and aren't, right this very minute, devoted to working on a query letter, whereas people in query letter forums are generally devoted to working on their queries, and if everybody plays fair--crits others, gives return crits to people who critted them--it works quite well, despite the oftentimes huge disparity in writing skill and publishing experience.  I kinda love it, and I enjoy (for a certain definition thereof) both critiquing and giving critiques.  Up to a point.

When I went on this forum for help with the Skywatch query, it was pretty solid, but needed refinement.  The forums were very helpful and I love my Skywatch query to bitty bits, despite the lack of agent bites so far.

The Novel's query, however, is problematic and always has been.  In fact, "is" is sort of a misnomer, because there are so many totally different versions sitting on my hard drive that I feel like it should be a plural.  The Novel's quries have always been problematic.

So when I was hitting my head against the pitch and synopsis for The Novel in October, prepping for an unagented submission drive, I was already using said forum for those and figured I'd give the query another shot, maybe it'd give me ideas for the pitch or synopsis.  What I discovered was that after 2-3 drafts, I get REALLY ANGRY about assumptions people make and any advice I see as against changes I've already made, that I thought were for the better.

After doing a dumb thing and posting a reply in anger--I did my best to mitigate it, but looking back I just shouldn't have hit "reply"--I decided I was too emotional about it and quit.

This was a good choice.  I was able to come back to it last week and read the crits posted after my angry outburst and realize that while they weren't making correct assumptions, either what they'd pointed out was a weak spot (even if I didn't always agree with their fix), or it was unclear because I hadn't explained my premise well enough and needed to clarify.  So I was able to come back, write another totally new draft, and post it for crit.

However, another 2-3 drafts later, it happened again.  Someone said something in a crit I disagreed with vehemently, their whole critique was scathing of a query draft I thought was close to done, they didn't even answer the direct question about the draft I asked for help with, and to top it all off, someone else posted a reply AGREEING WITH THEM.

ARGH!

So I stepped away.

Anger is almost never a useful emotion when it comes to critique and editing or drafting.  Even if they're wrong, the people critiquing you have put in a good faith effort and have taken time from their day and their own writing to help improve yours.  Yes, of course, the more one critiques the better a writer one becomes, but that's long-term.  Short-term, they put in time and effort and have (mostly) acted in good faith.  Coming back at that with anger?  Is not only going to alienate that person, but when it happens in a public forum, is likely to alienate others.

So even though I know my query has gotten critted several times since I decided to step away (I'm still obsessed enough to check the site, I've just temporarily banned myself from posting), I have not revised my query or posted again.  I especially haven't posted an angry reply telling the critter they're wrong.  Bad manners and an ungrateful response.

For me, a certain distance is required for editing.  I don't always believe in killing your darlings (thought mostly I do), but I do believe in the relative objectivity to tell your darlings from your workmanlike sentences.  Others may function differently, but especially as regards critique, if I start to become overly emotional as regards my critiquer--they're wrong, they're stupid, they don't know anything, they just hate me, they wouldn't know a genre-savvy query if it fired photon torpedoes at their exhaust port--it's time to step back.  A good critiquer is critiquing your work, not you, no matter how personal the attack feels.  And even if they're wrong, they don't deserve your anger.  They did you a good turn; the least you can do is not engage.

Of course, the lines are in different places if you're talking about a friend.  This particular bit is aimed at the sort of general-entry public forum critique websites often are.

Oftentime, our critiquers are right, if not about changes to be made than about the spots where those changes needs to happen.  And when they make stupid-ass mistakes, it's often because all they have to go on is your query--they don't know your story.  That's a good thing--an agent won't know your story, either, and if it confuses them it'll confuse some agent out there.

In short: critique ettiquette, I have feelings and opinions about it.

For now I've paused work on my query.  I still feel like I have a good draft, it just needs a few tweaks, and I need to seriously consider several things one of my later critquers said.

Also, I had no idea before I started asking for query critique HOW MANY people would be confused by the fact that one of my main characters is a unicorn.  Everyone who crits the query seems to assume that either a) she's a unicorn in human form, or a human with unicorn magic, or otherwise somehow human-shaped, or b) if she actually is no joke a unicorn, she must not be a main character and should be removed from the query.

SERIOUSLY.  I am fairly certain I wouldn't be having this problem if she were almost any other kind of mythical creature.  Which, admittedly, is part of the culture I'm talking back to with The Novel, but still.  It never occurred to me that anyone would question her being a unicorn.

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anthimeria: unicorn rampant, first line of Kipling's "The Thousandth Man" (Default)
Lauren K. Moody

Positive Obsession

There is hope in error, but none at all in perfection.
--Ursula K. Le Guin

The universe is made up of stories, not atoms.
--Muriel Rukeyser

Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.
--Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr

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