The other day, I couldn’t get a scene to work. This happens on a lot of days, actually, but this particular one was just grinding away at me. It was so frustrating, I wanted to just throw my laptop across the room and give up, say, To Hell with it, and let the story wither in my archives, like so many others.
Then, I received this message:
…[H]ow you describe the struggles of the main characters dealing with overcoming there [sic] personal issues and the physical issues of someone who has been confined to a wheel chair…is spot on. I really appreciate and admire how you got the pain and issues that are both physical and mental correctly for both characters.
After reading that, I felt awesome.
It’s easy for me to write facts. It’s also easy, sometimes, for me to write dialogue. And characters, and plot. But emotion made true – that’s where I pour a lot of my energies. It’s what I enjoy about stories (the conflicts of personalities), and it’s one part of my writing I try to do well. For that, I dig deep, into my own experiences, doubts, thoughts, heartaches.
So, when a reader – even a beta – comes back to me and says, Damn, girl, you got that right, it makes me think maybe I can do this, maybe this story is worth sharing beyond digital clippings and drafts passed to pals. And I sat back down and cleared my head…and the scene worked.
There’s still a long road ahead of me (revisions, edits, queries), but I’ll always keep that feedback pinned close to my desk, for the next time someone makes me feel like my writing is shit.
“Spot on.” Hell, yeah!
What keeps you writing your story?
Specific compliments like that mean a lot more than vague general ones – if someone says “This is great!” or whatever, it’s nice, but it doesn’t really show much thought. A very specific compliment like that one, explaining exactly what is good and why is a real boost. That’s the type of thing that keeps me going, even if it’s just from my partner, if he specifically details what he likes about something I’ve written, it’s worth so much more than a general sweeping positive comment.
I love to dig deep in me, capture a felt sense (as a writing facilitator I know likes to call it), put myself into another (or an other’s) space… I think that that is so much of the joy of writing; so, I could feel what you wrote and what I identify in me as the relief in knowing that I am doing my job, maybe even well.
A review or feedback like that will never fail to inspire me, with yours ranking very highly, for example, since I know it will be honest and not blindly positive.
I write to not only receive that adulation or critique, I also write as a test of myself. That’s why i really enjoy these challenges, as they each work a different aspect of my pallet. I know that there is always room for improvement, so I will keep on writing.
Back when I was writing (a lot of) fan fiction, I would see these comments that were only, “Update soon!” or “I liked this a lot.” Those are nice, of course, but they don’t tell me anything. I can’t get better from that. A thoughtful comment – even if it’s short and simple – can do so much more.
Thanks, Vanessa. 🙂
Absolutely, Randy. Don’t we all strive to evoke emotion, whether it’s fear, happiness, a sense of triumph, or even dread? I love stories that make me feel, and I try to do the same. 🙂
Thanks, Shade. I always try to be positive in my feedback. Even when I have to mark something up with a lot of red, I try to offer constructive advice, or at least tell the writer why I think this or that doesn’t work.
Great to see you stepping up with these challenges! I have to bow out this week, I think. I really want to get through another scene. 😉
Oh? Another Fearless scene, or something different than that?
Fearless-related. Some back story for Susanna. Not the cat fight, though. I’m saving that one. 🙂
Giving feedback that is constructive and helpful takes a skilled reader, I think. Not everyone is cut out for it. I wasted a lot of time in my early years relying on feedback from someone who really didn’t know how to remove herself from the story.
For me, compliments based on a specific moment, character, scene, exchange of dialogue–even a sentence–is enough to keep me writing.
The not-so-great feedback keeps me writing, too, only because I know what it feels like to quit and I can’t do that to myself again.
The compliment you received, which included specific detail, is amazing! You are so lucky to have that, and yes, definitely hang on to it for dear life!
You’re right, Kate: there is definitely a skill to being a good reader. I’ve learned to be so grateful for any feedback – both the specific praise and the critical nitpicking – because they both show someone who’s at least become invested in the story enough to make those comments.
I think maturity also has something to do with being a skilled critic. I, too, have had readers who couldn’t get past their personal prejudices (about voice, genre, whatever) to give any kind of constructive feedback. (On the opposite end of the spectrum, I’ve gotten the equally useless feedback of, “That was great! Write more!” It’s a nice ego boost, of course, but it’s fleeting. And, if I want to be a real writer, I need more than just ego fluffing. 🙂 )
Thanks for the insight.