My Philosophy on Criticism

My Philosophy on Criticism

Recently I’ve been offering criticism for other writers’ stories–mostly short stories or a chapter or two in a manuscript–in an effort to help keep my skills sharp. I’ve been enjoying it, and I realize how much I’ve missed it. It has also gotten me thinking about how I prefer to word my criticism versus how other writers might do it.

I prefer to be kind in my criticism. I am straightforward, but I am not mean- spirited, overly critical, or even unnecessarily tough. The way I view the world of writing is that writing as a craft is tough to master as it is, but it is an art that many do for enjoyment and self-fulfillment. Writing is not the military where it must be tough because soldiers might find themselves in a life-or-death situation. So I don’t see the point in being, well, mean. You never know what your criticism could do to someone.

I understand. You have to have thick skin, but to me that’s only insofar as understanding that your story IS NOT PERFECT. You cannot ever hope to get published without receiving criticism from someone else. You have to be open to changing your story, even going so far as to perhaps tearing the entire thing up and starting over again. But that thick skin should not extend to having to endure meanness. And unfortunately, I see a lot of it out there.

I can recall when The Stars Are Infinite was an entirely different story in its infancy. I put the prologue (when it had one) up on some writer’s website where people could read and rate it, and the whole idea of the website was that publishing professionals would be drawn to it and use it to request partials or fulls. My chapter had 4.5 stars despite being very amateurish and was actually on the front page, which meant it was popular. But I remember one commenter who was rather brutal–and they were the only one. It didn’t hurt my feelings, and I did take the criticism and run with it after thinking on it; however, I would have taken the criticism anyway, even if said person had worded it kindly.

It was just overall unnecessary, as though this person had a chip on their shoulder or was jealous. And when I see other writers commenting similarly, that’s what I think: you’re jaded and are tired of one too many rejections.

I actually did not grow as a writer from that person. I grew from Georgia McBridge, owner of Month9Books. When YALitChat was around, I was an intern for it. In exchange for helping out, she offered to critique TSAI. She was only able to help with the first five chapters, but never was she once harsh. She taught me how to write a good hook, how to write some solid first three chapters, and when I was struggling with chapters four and five, she told me to sit down and outline the whole book. And as I was outlining, that’s when I realized TSAI needed When Stars Die first.

Without her, I never would have gotten this trilogy off the ground. And again, she didn’t have to be mean at all! I feel like I learned many years worth of material under her than I ever would have learned without her. So ultimately I learned nothing from that harsh critic despite readily accepting their criticism.

Ultimately, I do not understand this idea that writers should just accept severe criticism as a part of doing this craft. So next time you’re critiquing a writer, perhaps think of how you’re approaching their piece and realize you can be thorough and even strict without being callous.

The Journey of Finding a New Home: Part One

The Journey of Finding a New Home: Part One

when-starsAs you all know, When Stars Die is now an orphaned book due to the unfortunate closure of AEC Stellar Publishing. It wasn’t as heartbroken as I imagined it would be. It still sucks, but I’m trying to see the bright in the bad now. All this means for me is that my novel will receive a fresh start at another home that will hopefully treat it just as well as AEC did. When Stars Die will start over and hopefully find a wider audience. Who is to say? I can’t assume anything right now.

When Stars Die has already received one rejection from Month9Books, but only because Month9 doesn’t accept previously published books from publishers that haven’t been in the game long enough. However, its publisher did love my query letter, so that is a step in the right direction. I’m waiting to hear on these remaining houses: Curiosity Quills Press, Pants on Fire Press, and Bookfish Books. The third one is relatively new, but they’re already pretty attractive in my eyes. Writers AMuse Me Publishing is also on my list, but I’ll submit to it once I hear back from the other three houses. Apparently there isn’t a long waiting period, however, to hear back from them. From what I’ve been told, it can take up to two weeks. With Month9, it was about three days.

It’s unfortunately not uncommon for newer presses to fold within the first few years of their lives. AEC didn’t fold due to any financial reasons. That much I can at least say, as most do fold for that reason.

I think a lot of people would have probably gone ahead and self-published, but since only one book was published in the trilogy so far, I see it fit to find a new home for it. Curiosity Quills most definitely takes previously published works from other houses. I’m not sure about the latter two, as they didn’t specify in their guidelines, but I gave them a chance anyway. With Writers AMuse Me, I’ve already got an “in,” so to speak, but as a courtesy, I do want to wait and hear back from the other publishers and see what they offer, and then I’ll submit to Writers.

So now it’s a waiting game, but I will be updating as each publisher gets back to me. I hope you all will follow me along this tough journey. The good news, however, is that I have finished revisions on another novel of mine, and I’m just waiting to get it submission ready.