OK, Maybe not that vicious. Although if one is not accustomed to receiving criticism about one of your beloved short pieces of fiction, then yeah, at first, it may seem like %$^^$#%# vicious.
Let me relay to you a true story, about me submitting a piece of flash fiction to an online writer’s group. To start with, I loved this story. I loved the two main characters! I enjoyed reading about their little adventure at the diner. I’ve written about fifty short pieces of fiction and I love this one maybe the best. Until I submitted it for criticism.The members of this writer’s group are writers themselves, so they started out gentile. Sort of. Then the barn doors were flung open and they shredded my story. In fact, most of them commented that they could not find a story despite their ripping sentences and paragraphs apart. Wow. I flashed through various emotions, all of them bad. Anger, rage, hurt, confusion, back to anger and then the one feeling all writers experience from time to time, “I’ll Never Write Again! I suck!”
Fast forward about five days. The emotion has faded and I examine my story through the group’s eyes, reading their comments objectively. Holy Crap! This story sucks! Actually, they were right, there is no story! I have a few characters going through a few things at a diner, but there is no actual story present! There is the hint of a problem, but it is never addressed or resolved. And there are other hints of other issues which are ignored later in the story. Dialog tags are off and a lot of stuff goes on, but it is more of a slice of a couple of people’s lives with no statement, no meaning and no story to resolve.
Examining my beloved story with fresh objective eyes, I start to rewrite. And rewrite. And rewrite. I keep asking myself, what is the story? What is the problem? Is it solved? How?
I inserted a real problem, and the story flows toward it’s solution along with the message of the story. It still is not a great story as the message is sort of weak. But the important thing is that I learned valuable lessons from submitting my story to the group for criticism. I learned that sometimes I can fall in love with dialog and smirks on character’s faces and really enjoy it, but the point of writing a story is to actually have a story in there somewhere! I will be on guard in the future. I also learned that submitting pieces to a writer’s group can be hard, but is so extremely valuable to a new writer. Critical in fact. And, I learned that I have the ability to learn from my mistakes and make adjustments. Thus, I become a more effective writer.
The point of this blog post? If you are a new writer and have not submitted your stuff for criticism, do it now. Find an online or in person writer’s group and then grow some thick skin,. Don’t let any of the comments bother you, as they are only helpful comments by fellow sufferers of this writing disease we all have, and ultimately they are trying to help you. You will learn more from having one of your pieces ripped into shreds than most writing courses. Trust me.