I awoke at three this morning with an aching back (thunderstorms), then my mind began wheeling and there was no getting back to sleep. So I figured, what the hell? Get up and chat with y’all. I’d love to say the storm, my aching back or the toddler who gets up at three every morning lately (which is seriously spooky and a tad Paranormal Activity) is the sole cause of my sudden insomnia.
Alas, it isn’t. Why am I awake? The thought of rejection.
I’d love to tell you guys I’ve always been good at handling criticism, but truth is, when I started writing I had the skin of a grape and needed far more outside approval than was probably healthy.
The first two books are behind me and both did fantastic, but what about this third one? It’s completely different and I take some huge risks. What if people think I was eating lead paint, licking toads and smoking Qualudes while writing?
Wait. Does one smoke Qualudes?
What if everyone HATES it????
And this is probably why I’m up at three in the morning (aside from creepy toddler activity). I’m on the ledge of something entirely new, about to take the plunge. The book is at the formatter. This is the first time publishing on my own. I’m no longer a newbie. It’s a bigger game and I’m super glad I have you guys or I’d be terrified.
Okay more terrified.
Humans Dig Approval
Hey, I’m not immune. We all wan’t approval. We’re human. Yet, the problem is, criticism is part of life. Yesterday, we talked about writing fast, finishing and shipping. The best way to get really good at writing books is….ready for this? Writing books. As in plural.
One of the main reasons writers work a book to DEATH is they fear criticism. They fear failure and rejection. So they work and rework and rework and never put themselves out there. Been there, done that, myself.
I know fear is a big reason I allowed my proposal to sit with an agent for eighteen months. I wanted the green light, the outside assurance that Rise of the Machines will be the best thing since unicorn stickers.
Putting ourselves out there is frightening. We open ourselves to rejection. Yet, the thing is, as much as it stings, criticism is vital to success.
Criticism Let’s Us know Where We Can Improve and Grow
We can’t fix what we can’t see. Criticism (when done properly) can take us to a new professional level. One of the reasons I’ve loved working with Piper Bayard is I didn’t have to waste time candy-coating my feedback and serving it on a polished platter so she wouldn’t cry.
I could say, “No, that doesn’t work. Here’s why.” Still can and it saves time for both of us.
And since I didn’t have to waste time adding fluff and glitter to all my critique, she’s now a published author with a critically-acclaimed book, Firelands. It’s AWESOME, btw.
Piper also has a seven-book series ahead. One is already written (and it ROCKS) and the next six are plotted. She’s a faster, better writer because she could take criticism, learn and move forward.
When it comes to my new book, I want to believe every review will be 6 stars out of 5, but I know that isn’t reality. Some people won’t like the book and I’ll learn and do better with the next book and the next.
Storms Make Us Stronger
Somewhere I heard a story about a bio-dome experiment. Scientists wanted to grow all kinds of plants and trees inside the safety of a dome. The trees were perfectly spaced, received just the right amount of water, sun, and nutrition. They were shielded from the outside elements in an ambient bubble of perfect and the scientists fully believed this would yield ideal trees because they were growing in an ideal “world.”
Yet, over time, the scientists noticed the trees never grew past a certain height and their roots were very shallow. Also, to add to the scientist’s surprise, it seemed trees outside the dome, trees faced with drought, competition, and storms fared better and grew bigger.
How could this be?
What they learned is that storms broke branches, yes. But damage forced the trees to get tougher in the broken places. Trees that had to compete for sunlight had to grow taller. Sometimes there was drought, and this forced the trees’ roots to grow deeper making them stronger and more resistant to high winds because they were anchored.
We Don’t Grow in Pink Perfect Bubbles
I know there will be criticism. There always is. Yet, thing is? I’ve been in critique groups where everyone just told each other how awesome their writing was, and you know what? No one grew. The writing never improved.
I don’t know about you, but I want each book I write to be better than the last. I can’t do this if I don’t have (sometimes painful) feedback. We need storms *shrugs*
We Have to Accept That We Can’t Please Everyone
Part of getting a healthy relationship with criticism is learning to discern what’s constructive versus destructive. Some people are just jerks. Nothing we do will please them, so learn to shrug them off.
Focus on the positive, but at least acknowledge the negative. Maybe the person has a point, but maybe the person is a lunatic. Not all feedback is relevant or even sane.
Listen to the constructive and ditch the destructive as soon as possible. It’s toxic. If we try to please everyone, we’ll end up pleasing no one. “Books by Committee” suck.
What are your thoughts? Suggestions? Do you fear rejection? Fear failure? Is it keeping you from moving forward? Have you been hurt by criticism only to realize it was the best thing for you?
To make you guys laugh, I’ve included a vlog I did about the first time my fiction was critiqued :D….
I love hearing from you!
To prove it and show my love, for the month of June, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. If you leave a comment, and link back to my blog, and mention my book We Are Not Alone in your blog…you get your name in the hat THREE times. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly.
I will pick a winner once a month and it will be a critique of the first 20 pages of your novel, or your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less).
And also, winners have a limited time to claim the prize, because what’s happening is there are actually quite a few people who never claim the critique, so I never know if the spam folder ate it or to look for it and then people miss out. I will also give my corporate e-mail to insure we connect and I will only have a week to return the 20 page edit.
At the end of June I will pick a winner for the monthly prize. Good luck!