When I was little, I’d draw things. Mostly unrecognisable things in crayon. Then I’d run to my Mum, say, ‘Look what I did!’ and await the praise.
‘Ooh, look at that! Is it a dragon?’
‘How can it be a dragon, Mum? It’s bright blue! That’s a guinea-pig.’
I’ve only just grown out of it.
Not showing my mother renditions of blue rodents, but running to someone for praise every time I produce something.
I finished a story, look!
What about that for a chapter!
See this article – I did that. No, it’s about guinea-pigs, actually.
Looking for feedback is like looking for water – some of us need it more than others. I have a friend I’d describe as a camel and another as a goldfish. (And another I’d describe as a pot-bellied pig, but that’s for different reasons.) Camel writes entire books, trilogies, even, and needs no cheerleaders, coaches or encouragement. Whereas Goldfish can tear apart paragraphs, sentences and individual words like a ferret at a wishbone.
Feedback can be feast or famine. My earliest public critiques came from a website which operates on a give-and-take basis. You review random pieces, random people review your work. I gained a great deal of insightful advice and realised my weaknesses. Some brilliant writers, without patronising or offending, pointed out where I needed work, and I appreciated every last one.
But the key word is Random.
I also received opinions I filed under the heading, ‘I’ll Laugh About This Later’. Reading them back now, they look so bizarre, they could be clever spoofs.
“Avoid pretty description. No clever phrasing. No cute dialogu. (sic) The motor that drive (sic) the story is conflict. Readers do not want characters to be happy.
Apply the above to everything you write.”
“I know I have a poorly developed sense of humour, which may be why I don’t find this funny, even though you describe it as a comedy.”
“I commend you for trying this but as regards your English, I advise you to walk before you try to run. Why not compose a simple but interesting plot and write about it in straightforward English, taking great care with your vocabulary and grammar – all the time, keeping it simple and very well organised.”
“I don’t know what I’d suggest to improve your writing. You seem to write with confidence and style. If you wrote a longer piece, I am sure it would be good. People always mention pov in my reviews, and I am not always clear what they are referring to, so I won’t mention that, except to say I think yours are fine.”
So how to find those Heavenly Critters? The ones who get what you’re trying to do and offer constructive advice, the ones who point a laser at a lazy cliché, the ones who can spot the plot-hole before you’ve even written it.
I found some treasure and I’ve drawn a map …
More soon …