Criticism Crisis

I have a wee confession to make today.

I’m having a bit of a crisis.

No, it’s not like the time I had to rewrite Bound and had a small meltdown here because of that.  I think most of you weren’t here for that, and trust me, that’s for the best that you weren’t, even if I did try to think of that as an opportunity at the time.  And it did turn out to be the best thing I ever did for myself, allowing me to learn and grow as a writer, and to finally figure out my biggest, longest-standing problem in how I approached and wrote stories, other than the whole “I’m not a pantser” nugget of wisdom.

This isn’t that sort of crisis.  There’s likely to be no happy ending to this one, partly because I doubt this will ever end.

Some of you just *might* have noticed that I am a very self-critical person.  I suppose that, as a writer, it serves me well, but there are times when I wish that had an off switch, even though the rest of me doesn’t.  I’m having one of those moments.

You see, I’m working through the first round of revisions/edits with All Stitched Up, and that’s causing this crisis in my brain.  I like Stitched.  I’m startlingly happy with it.  That’s not to say I’m not making changes and smoothing stuff out, and I’ve already made two, um, rather mean comments to myself on the pdf of the manuscript where I’m doing mark-up. But, having just finished Chapter 2, I’m still happy with the story itself.  Remember that small meltdown I had about the first chapter of The Nine?  Yeah, nothing remotely resembling that in Stitched.  I haven’t had a single moment so far of real angst about this one.  Admittedly, that’s only two chapters out of 32, so there’s going to be plenty of time for angst, but I usually do go through some in the first couple of chapters, particularly as nailing the opening is rather key.

And so this is where the crisis steps in.  What if I like it because I’m being too easy on myself?  Yes, my brain came up with that question in all seriousness, and despite the two comments I mentioned.  One of those was strictly related to the cheese factor of the phrasing I’d used for a particular sentence and it really was at gag-me levels.  But that’s easily fixed.  In fact, everything I’ve been finding have been easily fixed, and that makes me suspicious.  What if I’m not being hard enough on this book?

If you haven’t figured out yet that I love my main character, Devan, a little too much, you haven’t been paying enough attention (or you’re really new to my blog).  At this point, I’m now wondering if that’s interfering with my professionalism. Most of me scoffs at the very idea, I assure you.  Past experiences have suggested I might even take that professional self-criticism too far, yet I’m wondering.  I find it utterly hilarious that I can’t deal with the idea that maybe I’m not finding significant aspects to criticize yet because I wrote a good beginning.  Honestly, every time I try to even think that, the sarcasm drips out of my ears and nose as I think “Yeah, right, because you’re the second coming of (insert amazing author you love here).”  Even typing it caused a flood of the stuff.  Pardon me while I mop up for a bit.

Part of me knows I’m being a bit ridiculous about this, being upset because I like what I wrote and think it’s good.  That same part is almost sure that I’m not being too easy on myself.  I was the one who threw out a whole 107k-word manuscript less than a year ago and started over because it had such fundamental flaws that there was no other way to fix it.  I was the one crying here about stuff not being good enough about a month ago.  Maybe that’s the problem, that I’m used to finding things like that and I don’t know how to handle not finding them.  And again, I’m aware that I may yet find such issues in the remaining 29 chapters I have to go through on Stitched.  I just know how complacency can creep in on you, and I don’t want to be that author (when I have the legitimate right to call myself that), the one whose quality slips as their career goes on.  I’ve seen that as a reader and swore to myself I’d never do that if I ever had readers of my own.  So I’m trying to be vigilant about it, but maybe I’m being too much so and driving myself crazy(er).  God knows, I’d never be caught giving myself significant praise. My test readers both know how true that is.

Do you see why I don’t think there’s a happy ending here?  I imagine that I will always second-guess work that I think is actually good, partly to hold that complacency at bay.  But it isn’t easy to live with that on a daily basis.  I’ll learn to cope with it though.  Somehow.

About Julie

I'm a writer and photographer. I always have something with me to take notes for ideas or writing projects I'm thinking about or have on the go. I also like to go around with my camera and take pictures of anything that strikes me as beautiful or evocative. I'm perpetually working on one story or another, while waiting for enough distance to judge the last one (or more). I'm always working on several projects at once, developing the next book, even as I'm editing the last. Beyond that, there's always plenty of scraps and twists of ideas rolling around in my head, eventually turning themselves into full blown stories.
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10 Responses to Criticism Crisis

  1. quix689 says:

    I would try not to worry about it too much. I had the same feeling when I first started editing one of my novels. I was rewriting a few paragraphs, but there were no major changes, and I was starting to freak out about it. And then I read on, and I ended up deleting four chapters, completely rewriting several more, and I’m still only halfway through with the edits. But the beginning was really good!

    Maybe your novel’s the same way. Maybe the beginning’s really good, and now that you’ve made this huge post about how awesome it might be, you’ll find a huge error. [Side note: Only a writer would you try to comfort by telling them they’ve messed something up – we’re weird people!] It’s also possible that you’re just getting better as a writer and that you really understand this world and that you just didn’t make as many mistakes because you’ve grown a lot.

    For the record, I think it’s the latter reason, but I’ll keep the former option there in case you find that more comforting. 😀

    • Julie says:

      You’re probably right. I know you’re right about writers being strange creatures. It’s part of what we do. But I think you’re probably right about there being stuff to come, and maybe it’s because I’ve grown (Oh look, another flood of sarcasm caused by admitting I don’t suck. This mop’s getting soggy).

      I really do think that, if this wasn’t the first round of edits, I’d have been fine with the way things have gone. I likely wouldn’t have given it a second thought. But I expected bigger problems from this round. Ether Flows had more big issues in the first two chapters… I’m hanging my head in shame that I’m complaining I might not suck enough. That’s got to be worth at least a rueful chuckle from everyone.

  2. Celtic Forest Dweller says:

    Um . . . Julie? Maybe you’re just getting to be a better writer? You know, like . . . you’ve written all those novels (more than me, for instance) and they’re each better than the one before? Like . . . practice makes perfect (or at least better). Seriously, you’re too hard on yourself! You should face your amazingness!!

    • Julie says:

      Lol, I did say I might be getting better, I just have trouble with the idea. And I *think* each has been better than the last. Maybe they weren’t. Maybe I’m getting worse but am blind to that. It’s really hard to know. I’ll probably worry about it with every book until it’s publish. And maybe a little after that too.

      Also, you’re never going to get me to agree that I’m amazing. I don’t think I could make my mouth speak or my fingers type those words in anything other than a negation of the idea. I’m not. I’ll admit to being obsessed and driven, but that doesn’t make me amazing. 🙂

      • Celtic Forest Dweller says:

        Well *I* think you must be getting better.
        Eheh. I hear ya. I’m a perfectionist myself… I’ll probably obsess over all my problems long after I get published (if I ever do).

        *sigh* Well, if people tell me I’m amazing I never agree either. Still, I think you are. Look at all the writing you do!!

        Speaking of which, I pounded out 4k last night (which is enormous for me) and hit 70k which I’m highly ecstatic about. 😀
        I’m going to spend the next four days finishing (I hope) so I’ll probably not be around on the internet. So . . . just don’t go starting Devan3 while I’m gone, ‘kay? 😉

        • Julie says:

          Devan3, Still They Watch, won’t get started until November 1st. It’s my NaNo novel, so you have time to finish yours. Finishing editing Stitched is my current priority, really.

          Congrats on both the 4k in an evening (which is good by anyone’s standards, even mine), and 70k! Can’t wait to hear you say you’re finished!

          Believe me, I’m terrible at accepting praise. It’s never changed, either, so I doubt it ever will. And the reason I’d try to stop worrying about problems after the book was published is because it’s out of my hands then. Once it’s published, that’s it. It’s well and truly done, so no more worrying.

          • Celtic Forest Dweller says:

            (I thought it was called that but didn’t want to draw attention to my enormous stupidity if it wasn’t. ;)) Yeah, so you say. I guess I was just joking. 😀 Looking forward to NaNo again!

            Thanks! 🙂 I can’t wait either!

            Yeah, I’d probably try telling myself that but I’d probably still stress over it, crazy person that I am. Hopefully not though! And maybe I’d just be so thrilled to have anything published that I’d forget about it anyway…

            Good luck on your editing!

  3. 4amWriter says:

    It’s a process. You’re probably going through a transition in your writing career. Authors will always find something they despise or admire about their work. That’s the nature of the beast. At some point we all have to learn our self-destructive tendencies (because we ALL have them) and figure out the best way to manage them.

    For me, it’s never to react immediately to an extreme feeling I have, whether it’s a positive or a negative opinion of my writing. I sit on those feelings, wait them out. When I go back to re-read the section that stood out to me as amazing or horrible, I usually see it from a different perspective and edit accordingly.

    You’ll be fine.

    • Julie says:

      As always, you offer comforting wisdom. 🙂 And I think you’re right, the key is awareness of what those things are, since they will always be with us in some way.

      In a way, this post really does illuminate my biggest issue. I second guess almost everything positive I think about my own writing, always on the look out for signs of excessive ego (signs may be real or imagined, as I haven’t yet figured out how to tell the difference). I usually keep those to myself, but it kind of overflowed the buffer that normally filters that out of this blog.

      Thank you, I’m mostly sure you’re right, that I’ll be fine. I think my fear of becoming one of those egomaniacal writers just got a bit out of hand there. In retrospect, that’s probably not a likely scenario anyway. 😉

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