I’ve finally managed to drag my muse out from under the bed where she’s been hiding ever since I got Geoff and Lia’s story back from the beta reader.
Here are three facts about the feedback:
- The beta reader did a great job. Her feedback pinpointed the areas in the story that felt weak.
- Her feedback was balanced between good and bad elements of my writing.
- When I read her feedback, my belief in my ability to write went away and hid for a while.
I knew I was being foolish to overreact like that. I did it anyway. I’ve decided that this reaction is part of the process and I’ll just have to accept it. Plus, I need to recognize that this reaction has very little to do with what the beta reader actually said. I apparently have a hearing problem; criticism of my writing is going to be distorted into something monstrous.
What the beta reader actually said: You need to work on areas A, B, and C.
What I heard: You are the worst writer in the history of the planet.
Something inside my head took the perfectly fair, dispassionate, balanced advice that I was offered and turned it upside down and inside out until it was almost unrecognizable.
Maybe it’s a reverse form of egotism. If I can’t be a good writer, then I’m going to immediately rank myself at the opposite end of the spectrum and be the Worst Writer Ever.
All right. Let’s imagine that’s true. In that case, there’s room for improvement. I will aim to be the Second Worst Writer Ever. Move one step up the ladder.
I have finally got myself back to work by ignoble means. Bribery. The only way I am going to let myself start working on the Shiny New Story waiting in the wings is to finish smoothing out Sam and Neil’s story and then revising Geoff and Lia’s story.
I have a confession to make: I am the sort of person who reads other people’s diaries. But I only read them if it’s the author is dead and the diary is published. I’ve read Virginia Woolf’s diaries. She used to note down how she felt at different stages of writing a novel and then come back later and compare it to how she felt about the story later. So I’m going to note here that at this moment I think that Samantha and Neil’s story is the worst thing I’ve ever written. When I started writing it, this story was all glitter and stardust. I want to check back in six months or so and see what I think about it then.
It’s hard to finish a story when you think it’s the worst thing you’ve ever done. I don’t want to submit a horrible story to my editor. But considering how my feelings about a story are going to change, I don’t think I’m the best judge of whether my stories are any good or not.
It’s not my job to reject this story. That’s the editor’s job, and she’s very good at it. I’m going to write it as best I can and then let her do her job. My job is to write it and then go on.
Bad writing can lead to good writing.
I really do believe that it’s only through writing The Worst Book Ever that I am going to get better. If I keep writing–and finishing–novels, and if I make it a point to analyze where I’ve gone wrong with each story, then I will get better at this.
You are the only you… There are better writers than me, there are smarter writers than me, there are people who can plot better, but nobody can write a Neil Gaiman story like I can.
4 thoughts on “In Praise of Bad Writing”
I understand 100%. I am not a “writer” although I write. One day I decided to submit an online application for website writing reviews and got turned down… immediately I thought I was horrible and had no right to be writing. Then I started writing here and realized it touched certain people. So in the end you are not going to please everyone … especially the worst critic of all, YOU! Great read, thank you. Just enjoy what you do, I’m sure it will be great
Absolutely! Writing is hard work — if you’re going to do it, you might as well enjoy the process 🙂
Exposing your creative self always has the caveat of pain attached. Anything at beta stage is subject to 1) criticism and 2) praise and 3)dismissal. It’s only when we realize our words aren;t our children and it’s okay to whack them and shove them around like a poorly stacked dishwasher that we gain a grasp on the process.
Very true! And I like the analogy to a poorly stacked dishwasher 🙂