Friday, December 3, 2010

Bronco Busting 101

I’ve mentioned the critique group that Larry and I belong to. The value of feedback is immeasurable, and even when we receive something that is clearly well intentioned, yet  not complimentary, we keep putting our stuff out there for review—we want to make it as good as we can. Is that a fun part of the writing process? Sometimes, not so much.
Recently we received a critique on one of our chapters that started like this: “I did like some of it” then “I tried not to sound too harsh.” This immediately alerted me to cowboy up and jam my hat down over my ears. I don’t take criticism well, so even the mildest of the most constructive type still pulls the blood from my face.
It’s not that this person’s input isn’t helpful, and it’s not like I haven’t heard these comments before from others. Yes, I realize that every now and then we turn in something which can’t possibly compare to the unqualified genius of previous submissions.
Then the critiquer said, “Maybe it's just cause you were working so fast, I have more problems with my stories if I do that, too. The chapters were coming hard and fast when this was written, so maybe slowing down will help.”
It was an absolutely well intentioned comment from a very nice person, and I know he/she wouldn’t deliberately be unkind. So why am I still twisting in the wind when I read it a week ago?
Well, because the chapter in question has been written for over a year, and then rewritten a couple times recently. I even blogged my concerns about this very section in Perfection Omelet with a Side of Frustration.
THAT’s what I find so upsetting—we’ve put an enormous amount of time and effort into half a dozen pages over several weeks, and it comes back with the comment, “Not your best work.”
Yes, I have us on a time schedule, the critiquer is right about that—we’re pushing ourselves, but that’s not the same as hurrying through. I’m still as difficult and anal and controlling and perfectionistic as I’ve ever been, as I’m sure Larry will attest.
Then what’s going on here?
Maybe we’ve spent too much time on it. Maybe it’s been nitpicked to death. Maybe we’ve sucked all the life right out of the thing.
So what now?
Well, I need to reread comments from the others in the critique group and see what they had to say. Is this an isolated opinion? Or is this same sentiment voiced elsewhere? And maybe I’m just suffering from the human condition—remembering the bad stuff far more vividly than the good.
Now that I’ve managed to exhaust the bronco, (or in this case, beat it to death), I can take off my cowboy hat and get down to some serious rewriting.
Or not. Let’s see what comes out of the gate tomorrow.

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