Friday, March 23, 2007

With Friends, or Going Solo?

"Everywhere I go, I'm asked if I think the universities stifle writers. My opinion is that they don't stifle enough of them. "
- Flannery O'Connor

Last night I met with a sub-group of my local RWA - basically 4 of us who live within the same 20 square miles. And it was nice. We exchanged sample pages, talked about the sample pages we’d shared last month, enjoyed some coffee (and beautiful weather outside - almost 60 yesterday!), and watched the Borders customers browse.

(Interesting side note: at one point, a couple who looked to be in their late 30s sat down in a chair in the lounge/coffee shop area, near our table. The woman hopped onto the man’s lap and began gyrating and kissing him. It lasted all of 30 seconds or so, still, the 4 of us were sort of left with our mouths hanging open. Never know what you’ll see when you head to the mall…)

Still, I left the evening thinking, well, it sure is nice to have fellow writers to sit down with. To talk about the industry and contests and conference news with. To share writing struggles and frustrations. To bemoan rejection together.

And yet.

It’s always a little frustrating for me when someone gives you a writing sample, asks for your feedback (which takes time), and then defends every comment or criticism you make. “Well, but that’s how I want the hero to behave.” “Well, I know people who talk that way.” “Well, many authors write from multiple characters’ POV.”

I sort of feel like, well, don’t ask if you’re not going to change anything or at least take suggestions under consideration. I like writers’ groups and critique partners for so many reasons. They are the reason my writing improved to publishable quality and the reason I picked myself up after so many rejections over the years. Still, occasionally, I’m reminded of why I go it alone as often as I share my work with others.

Anyone else ever experience frustration in working with other writers?


Marianne Arkins said...

I think it's a knee-jerk reaction to defend your writing. I find that when I'm in person with someone who is giving a crit, I automatically defend it, even though I know I shouldn't. I hear the words come out of my mouth and want to slap myself.

It's so much easier when it's a virtual crit to step back for a few minutes and let the words sink in before you react.

Yes, much of writing and reviewing is subjective. That's why everyone says "take what you like and leave the rest". But having a face to face makes it more personal, I think.

bunnygirl said...

It sounds like you offer mostly technical advice. Bless you, and shame on anyone who feels they have to challenge each and every suggestion!

I need to find a good crit group, but it's hard to find people who will do the job without going off on tangents.

I've been using a speculative low-tech future for my last few works, and a lot of the action hinges on certain premises. Unfortunately, few critters seem capable of critiquing a scene for technical matters of description, dialogue, etc, and would rather argue with me over premise-related matters that were established 80,000 words ago. Grrr...

So yeah, if your critiques are about technique and marketing issues, you're a goddess and have every right to feel annoyed.

Does the woman in question understand the difference between Writing as Art (which has no rules) and Writing with Intent to Publish (which is full of rules)? Maybe if you put it in that context for her, it would help.

Good luck! :-)

Allie Boniface said...

Ooh, I'm a critique goddess - cool! No, I know how hard it is to hear feedback, esp. comments that maybe you're not expecting. I think I was just venting when I posted this.

Connie Barbour said...

Being a novice writer, it is very easy to take criticism personally even thought common sense tell me not to...I just try harder and try to take all advice with a grain of salt.

Anonymous said...

wow - you guys stay up really late!
anyway - don't like when people defend to the point where you feel why even bother - I only say something about my writing if I think the person misunderstood what I was trying to say - take what you like and leave the rest is good advice - I follow it except when 3 or more people say the same thing then I rethink it - I have a feeling this person looks down on what is said to her becuase she is technically not writing a romance and reads more literary stuff

MaryF said...

I was that defensive person yesterday at critique group ;) But I've been writing a long time and while my style doesn't mesh with theirs, I do kinda know what I'm doing.

Besides, they wanted me to neuter my hero! Gah!