Beyond the Binding."
The Power of Will was my first serious attempt to write a short story. Saying I was insecure about it is the understatement of the century. I dared because a scene flashed in my mind the first time I heard the music, but I knew I would need much more than good music to do it right. I would need help.
I am not afraid of harsh critique. Ridicule is my true terror. I know this comes from a considerable lack of humility but that's the way it is. I don't mind to offer my drafts for critique and have them torn out, decorated with red markers and shredded into confetti. I prefer it over having something published for selling and have people laughing at basic or stupid errors.
Since Father Dragon meant business, besides asking his closest friends, he went to knock at the door of the most impartial critique-partners he knew. "We are tough. We are heartless. Ah Hoo! Ah Hoo! Here is my child. Make it bleed. Make it strong. Make it a story worth reading! Ah Hoo! Ah Hoo!"
Yeah, dragon loves Sparta. It wasn't like that but it was pretty close to how I felt. I won't lie. As prepared as my brain was, I was appalled when I got this in return...more than twice.
At that point, throwing the child off a cliff or just burn it was overly tempting. Nevertheless, general consensus said it should live, provided that I made the necessary changes. Did I mention I don't write short stories because I just can't make it short? To me, the task is like getting an elephant inside a VW.
Finding Number 1. Avoid addressing issues in second person. You did this, you didn't do this, you should, you shouldn't.. (you, you, you). Remember it's about critiquing the draft not the writer, thank you very much. I think that's one big reason why many writers tend to take bad feedback so personal and sometimes get so depressed or angry.
Finding Number 2. Saying why you didn't like specific things helps more than just pointing flaws out. It also helps to make sure you're not just having a bad hair day and you're venting your frustrations on the draft. (Believe it or not, it DOES happen.) Those reasons will help the writer to understand better if it is just personal appreciation, if what he sees in his mind is not what the reader is seeing, if it truly works with the writer's whole plan or not, etc.
It happened to me that two persons pointed at the same issue but for totally different (and ironically opposed) reasons, making the change unjustified.
Finding Number 3. I have to say I was extremely lucky that my toughest critique-partners are what I call writer surgeons. Yes, they put my draft under the microscope and dissected it inch by inch, but they NEVER messed up with my skills as writer or the heart of my muse. On the contrary. They always checked on my vitals. They pointed out the problem (or many problems), backed them up with reason and additionally, gave me several options to solve them out.
This, my friends, this is walking the extra mile. This is true gold to me, not just in regards of critique, but in life in general. There are those who only complain about everything. They know life sucks but they can't tell you what's bothering them exactly. There are those who pinpoint problems and give you complete explanations about why things don't work. They are of great help to understand many things. And there are some, a few, who name the problem, explain it and also offer solutions. It is up to you to listen or not, the job is still yours. But when you are standing in the dark, clueless about what you're doing, these people are a blessing.
Of course this is only Father Dragon's point of view. Anyway, I want to express my heartfelt gratitude to all those who helped me getting the elephant inside the car! Sorry I delayed this for too long but thank you so much for answering the dragon's distress call so promptly and efficiently. Dragon Hugs!
This post is part of the Insecure Writer's Support Group founded by Alex J. Cavanaugh. Find the list here. Also visit the IWSG website, full of interesting writerly stuff, here.