I’m sure most of you will agree with me when I say that writing a story is just like having a child. It’s fine when you’re writing it because you don’t have to let anyone else see- or criticise- it until you’re absolutely sure it’s ready. Then, as soon as you type the final finishing touch, it becomes like your child’s first day at school. You have to let it go out into the big wide world, all on its own, for people to make their own judgements on it. I’m a fairly thick-skinned person, but even I will admit that the thought of someone I don’t know reading the story I’ve lovingly crafted and prepared for the past nine months scares the hell out of me.
Last night, I experienced my first taste of criticism. I was unsure if two sections were working together, so I passed it to someone whose opinion I trust (they’re an avid reader of a wide range of genres) and asked them to take a look at it. This was a mistake for two reasons- one, it was late at night and the person was just about to go to bed and two, the story had moved on dramatically from the last time they’d read it! The person said they didn’t like the sections I’d showed them and I was crushed. The part in question was one of my favourites (yes, I know having favourite parts is dangerous, especially when it comes to culling them!) and I’d originally felt it was particularly well-written. The person then said they felt they would like to read from where they’d last left off in order to fully understand it, because the writing looked good. This made me feel slightly better but I spent at least half an hour after the person went to bed analysing the section thoroughly and making edits.
What followed was a partly sleepless night wondering if the rest of my story was as good as people have said it is. Were they just saying that to be nice, or did the parts I’d shown them actually have merits? It all sounds very dramatic but it made me wonder whether I would actually be able to take people who didn’t know me personally criticising my work. Not everyone will like what I’ve written and I can fully accept that. What I was worrying about was one day seeing the dreaded one-star review on Amazon, followed by a scathing attack on the story I’ve worked on for the best part of this year. The thought that someone could tear it apart was actually quite disturbing.
However, I awoke (very early) this morning with a thought. Having your work critiqued is part and parcel of being a writer (obviously!) and there’s no point in worrying yourself over it. Since I can remember, I’ve been uncomfortable with people reading my writing in case they don’t like it, but this is something I can and must get over. When the time comes to submit it to agents, it’s inevitable that it will be read by people and like I said, not everyone will like it and I don’t doubt some people will feel the need to make perhaps unnecessary critiques on it via Amazon or other sites. However, others will like it and these are the people who matter. It’s impossible to write a book that everyone on the planet will like, so there’s no point in trying to appeal to every single person. Different readers have different tastes. I, for example, don’t enjoy historical novels. Others can’t get enough of them. What I’ve learned from my first taste of criticism is that although it’s inevitable in writing, it’s absolutely nothing to worry about. If you feel in yourself your novel is as good as it can possibly be (it’s impossible to write the perfect book- believe me, I’ve tried!) then that’s what matters.