If you look at Sharon Bazant’s blog, you might think we’re the same person. We’re not; she’s far more interesting than I am! I’m delighted to have a guest post from Sharon today, because I believe her presence here will make me seem cool.
Take What You Need And Leave The Rest
Having come to the writer/author table somewhat late in life, I find myself in my seventies with two recently published memoirs. The road along the way has been strewn with obstacles, challenges, and some massive learning curves.
One of my greatest struggles has involved learning how to deal with critiques and feedback. I’ve been a teacher, an actress, and a world traveler so it’s not as though I’ve never been exposed to criticism. Nevertheless, in the beginning, analysis of my stories left me shaking, vulnerable and defensive.
I hired a writing coach/editor to help me with my first book since I had never been part of a writing community nor did I have any author friends. After I finished the manuscript, my coach recruited beta readers from her writing classes to read and assess my draft memoir. Only one of them had written a book, a debut mystery novel, and none of them had been schooled in the etiquette of critique. As a result, I found some of their comments scathing and hurtful.
This was my baby, my story. How dare they rip me apart! After a few weeks of defensiveness, loss of self-confidence, and a confluence of mixed emotions, I decided to try and look at these comments through a more objective lens. That’s when I began to learn and grow.
I began by asking myself questions. Were some of these comments useful to me as a writer? Which parts of this feedback could elevate my story? Did some of these comments simply reflect the personal bias of the reader? How could I tell the difference between constructive criticism and subjective judgment?
These questions can be tough to answer so I sat down and developed some criteria designed to help navigate my critique conundrum. It’s not a definitive list and it is still a work in progress. Here is what I have so far:
- After an initial perusal of reader feedback, put all the comments aside for a week or 10 days.
- Take time to digest and reflect on the analysis.
- Get back to the comments when I can read them without emotional reaction.
- Understand that everyone brings their world and their biases to any book they are reading.
- Comments about my behavior or my motivations (in a memoir) are not helpful.
- Feedback about what can be elaborated on and what might be taken out of the story can be valuable, especially if these comments are made by more than one person.
- The tone and delivery of the reader’s analysis are pivotal to sorting out who is trying to elevate my story and who is bringing a little too much of themselves to the table.
The biggest lesson I have learned… Advice, analysis, feedback are all important and necessary to the writing process. But, in the end, it is my story. I can take what I need and leave the rest.
Sharon Bazant is a retired teacher living in the Fraser Valley near Vancouver, Canada. Geckos and Guns is her second memoir. Sharon has donned a variety of professional and personal hats as a seasoned world traveler and long-term expatriate. Some of her greatest adventures occurred during her years in Pakistan and Thailand.
Readers can follow her at thebazantblog.com, Sharon Bazant Author on Facebook, @authorbazant on Instagram, and @AuthorBazant on Twitter.