Monday, 15 April 2013

Motivation For Writers

As a writer you need someone to be honest to your face (even if it’s just your online face). You may feel you can take criticism as long as it’s constructive or sensitively worded or if it comes from someone you respect, but trying to influence how a reader reacts to your work is never going to yield good results.

Constructive doesn’t mean polite or supportive, it means something you can build on. That’s not to say you can’t be those things when putting forward critical opinions, but if you’re asking for constructive criticism, be aware of what it is you’re asking for.

Having said that, it also helps greatly to have someone to encourage you. 

Wait, didn’t I just suggest that helpful feedback didn’t require a cheerleading section? Yes, I did. But there’s more to writing than getting the words in the right order and nicely polished.



If I tell you what you’ve written is brilliant and works on every level, that may be nice to hear, but it isn’t constructive, except perhaps to your ego. But then the occasional ego boost can work wonders when you’re in a slump. And we all get that way from time to time.

Would Stephen King be where he is today if his wife hadn’t taken the first draft of ‘Carrie’ out of the bin and said she thought it was good?  I doubt she meant it would be a worldwide bestseller and the road to becoming a millionaire, she probably just meant it was good enough to get published. And that was enough to get him back at the typewriter.

And encouragement doesn’t have to be pat on the back and sweet words whispered into your ear, it can be a kick up the backside and a rant about not wasting your life watching True Blood repeats. 

The thing to remember is that the person who tells you what’s not working with your manuscript in no uncertain terms, and the person who tells you you’re great and they’ll take the kids down to the park to give you an hour because they believe in you, they don’t have to be the same person.

Trying to expect the perfect mix of good and bad, black and white,  hope and fear that suits your particular temperament on any given day is always going to leave you feeling unsatisfied. 

Take the useful part of whatever you’re offered and train yourself to ignore the rest. I know that can be tricky. When a loved one tells you it’s all great when you know it isn’t, when a stranger online trashes everything you’ve been working on, it can feel demoralising.

But you’re getting everything you need to make the finished product.  Don’t waste the opportunity because it didn’t come in the packaging you’d hoped it would.

If you found this post useful, please give it a retweet. Cheers

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28 comments:

Gina Gao said...

This is a very good post. I do believe that every writer needs motivation, even if its not positive.

www.modernworld4.blogspot.com

Janeal Falor said...

Great point! Hearing only good stuff never helps and only bad stuff is super discouraging. I try really hard to remember that myself with critiquing for someone else.

mooderino said...

@Gina - cheers.

@Janeal - I think it's okay to offer what you can.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Sometimes we need the truth, sometimes it's just a boost! My critique partners and reviewers give me truth while my wife and fans give me the boost.

Fairview said...

I write YA and there is one gentleman in my critique group who always tells me my characters are a bunch of spoilt brats. It hurt but I've come to realize it isn't constructive nor supportive. but he isn't my target reader and in the real world, not everyone is going to like your writing. so, I've perversely started looking forward to seeing how many more different ways he can tell me how much he hates what I write!

mooderino said...

@alex - sounds perfect.

@fairview - some people need to vent. You're probably preventing him kicking his cat.

Nancy Thompson said...

I love the critiquing process because I can count on constructive criticism from writers who know what they're talking about. I never would've been published traditionally without them. My first CP, however, was anything but constructive, yet he taught me an important lesson, as well.

Now that I'm published, I enjoy reading all reviews, but then I've been exceptionally lucky. There was one reviewer on Goodreads though who was just plain mean in her comments, yet not so much as to actually rate it. It's a crap shoot.

Great post, Moody! I wrote about motivation, too, but of a different sort.

Shawn Yankey said...

It is always good to have people you respect to tell you the truth about what your doing. Great point.
Shawn at Laughing at Life 2

mooderino said...

@Nancy - I like it too. I'm grateful for any feedback, no matter how it's delivered. Once I ignore the tone (good or bad) there's nearly always something I can use.

LD Masterson said...

So often, Mood, you take something we should already know and say it in a way that makes us hear it anew. Thanks.

Maria said...

Love this post! And it has to be one of my favourites during my journey on the A to Z challenge route. It echoes exactly how I feel, in fact I felt like you were right inside my head when I read it.

Excellent advice for writers everywhere. Thank you.

Al Diaz said...

I make my best effort to deliver critic in a polite manner, but never falsely sugar coated, even if I adore you and think you're demigod. If I think you screw it, I'll tell you. I don't like the troll style, but I try to honor what I believe is the truth. I also make people aware that's only my personal opinion and as such, it's not the universal law.

mooderino said...

@LD - you're welcome.

@Maria - thanks, very nice of you to say.

@Al Diaz - I try to be specific and direct, and then walk away.

The Rambler said...

Great post! Friends are beta-reading my first novel and while I welcome criticism, I also dread it. And I've been trying to coax my poor friends into delivering their feedback in a certain way - when in reality, I shouldn't care! Whatever package it comes in, it will be useful.

Thank you again!

Lynda R Young said...

real encouragement goes a long, long way.

mooderino said...

@Rambler - thank you.

@Lynda - I'd agree with that.

Jean Davis said...

This is exactly why I prefer crit partners that I don't know in person. I need honesty, not a pat on the head. Having those crit partners also be fellow writers is a bonus because they also know to comment on what works as well as what doesn't. That's all the cheering I really need. :)

Robin said...

Yes, we each help one another in different ways and have supporters on different levels. For instance, I have one sister that has a critical eye and will tell me what is working and what isn't, but I have another who always says it's so great and she can't wait to see my published etc. The cheerleading and babysitting help she gives is great and I totally appreciate it, but it's the critiques that make me think and question that improve my writing.

Great post.

Mary Maddox said...

It is especially helpful to read this now as I brood over a bad review. When a reviewer feels motivated enough to trash a book, something about it struck her the wrong way. Often the reviewer cannot articulate what the real issue is, so the review seems nasty and unfair. Truth is, many readers don't write well, so their criticism is not helpful.

Susan Oloier said...

I like the idea of having cheerleaders for our writing and how different people can offer different types of help when it comes to our writing. If we look at our readers/crit partners as having varying roles, then maybe our expectations will be more realistic.

Michael Di Gesu said...

You are so right, Mood.

That's why I have several different PC's and Bets's. The raw grit, no nonsense critiquers and THE OTHERS that focus on the more positive. They are great for building from something they find really good. Having someone point out the negative is SO necessary. How else will we grow as writers? How else can we polish our story until it's blinding?

Mama J said...

I think you need a good balance of constructive feedback and cheer leading.

mooderino said...

@Jean - I think most people go through phases where they need different things.

@Robin - spreading out the workload always helps.

@Mary - some people need to vent, and the internet is just so handy.

@Susan - I think people often expect too much of someone obviously not able to see things we see them.

@Michael - takes a while to toughen up the skin, but part of the process, i think.

@Mama J - yes, but not necessarily all from the same person.

VikLit said...

A very good post and I agree we need motivation as well as constructive criticism. An ideal CP would do both, and knows when to encourage and when to critique.

J.L. Campbell said...

Hi, there,
I agree that knowing what advice works and what doesn't is important. It's also good to have people around who are good critique partners or beta readers and have no challenges saying exactly what they think isn't working.

lindymoone said...

Good points, all. I've been lucky enough to be the recipient of a Moody crit or two. Very helpful, deeply reasoned, no-nonsense feedback.

As a "critter", I worry about discouraging writers, especially young ones. It took me too long to find the courage to publish, and it's still a struggle. When I critique, I sometimes do add the nonsense: make a fool of myself, clowning around... but there will be plenty of real criticism in there, too. My aim is for the recipient of the crit to rub her hands together and, with a sheepish grin, say to herself, "Ok, let's get back to work on this!"

Too many writers' fragile egos get crushed. Sure, we're not meant to be babysitters, and we need to develop thick skins -- but we're not born with them, and (too) cruel-to-be-kind can backfire.

I try to remember that famous writers and critics have (infamously) pronounced some of the great talents "talentless" -- so who am I to break someone's spirit? How many other writers took those critics' advice, gave up, and drank themselves to death or into obscurity, or are watching those True Blood reruns right now? We'll never know.

But thank goodness everyone doesn't crit like me! I sweat the small stuff, can't see the forest for the trees, miss the big picture... (There must be a few more cliches I could trot out, here, but I'd just edit them out!)

mooderino said...

@VikLit - finding an ideal CP can be quite a search.

@JL - I think those people do exist.

@Lindy - Hello! I think as writers we will get readers of all different types, and even they will be in different moods on different days. Better to prepare yourself for a variety of responses than to try and only attract a specific kind of reader.

Disha said...

Have no critiquing partners... But i tell you the fans are an ultimate booster. Happy to connect. Do visit www.disha-doshi.blogspot.com I am following you via #AtoZChallenge

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