How apropos that this article from Query Tracker landed in my email inbox today. What do they call it? Kismet?
A couple of days ago, I received a critique on the YA story I’ve been working on forever. I had begged my Editor for Life for said constructive critique, as I had never written anything in the genre. (Usually, Mr. ED provides me with written direction as to development and an opinion on whether the story will fly, but not this time. This time, he and his fellow editor oohed and aahed and implored me to hurry up and make the changes and submit the novel to an agent, post haste.) But since I insisted, he passed my draft to a reviewer.
When the review came back, he prefaced the email by telling me a few things. One, he doesn’t agree with the assessment. Two, Nameless Reviewer reamed me a new “b***hole,” or two.
Still, I’m no shrinking violet. I encourage critique, especially if it is constructive. Plus, I asked for it.
And the review? Scathing doesn’t quite describe what I read.
And guess what? I survived it.
Nameless Reviewer brought up several good points. One being that my technology was dated. Yes, yes it is. I started writing this novel in 2008. That’s four long years ago. I rushed to complete it because I wanted to finally finish it. It was the one piece of work that I already had 50K worth of words and was closest to finishing.
There were other technical issues that I totally agreed with. She reviewed my first draft. My first drafts are typically horrible, if not downright obnoxious. Especially true of a first draft that took me four years to finish. And I tried too hard. When I wrote the beginning, I had ‘dumbed’ down my main character. Teenagers these days are rather savvy and more sophisticated than what my character exhibited in the first few pages of my book.
However, I have to disagree with her on the rest of it. She thought it was an unbelievable tale and that my character was unlikeable. I am in contact with 14 to 18 year olds all day long. I see what’s going on. My teenage character is rather spoiled and not very likeable. I wanted to portray her as such in the beginning, because in the end she finds her better self.
Plus I based the character and her antics on my Real Life daughter and her friends. My Real Life daughter can come off as 1. spoiled, 2. bitchy, and 3. not very likeable. But my Real Life daughter can be very compassionate, is fun, smart, and talented.
Why do I blather on about this?
Well, for one thing, I’ve sent out queries and I’ve been rejected. I’ve submitted my work for various contests and have had mixed results. Some people like what I write, and some people don’t. Similarly, I feel the same way about some novels. There are too many books out there, and I can’t expect to like every one, or to have everyone like my work.
I like what Jillian Medoff said about writing as an art. It is an art. Like any artist, writers build their body of work. They grow and learn new concepts; they build a gallery of pieces that (hopefully) show a positive progression of improvement. I’m thinking of a gentleman I know from the Michigan Silversmith Guild, who is holding his 50 year retrospective in Kalamazoo. He was not proficient at metals when he was a college student, but what he creates now is nothing short of stunning and amazing.
Critique is not meant to tear down, but to point out various avenues not apparent to the artist. This is my take. Rejection can only be felt by the beholder, not by the artist. If you feel torn down and rejected, it might be time to start working in earnest.