Wednesday, January 4, 2012

On Being Tough and Admitting Failure

When I submitted a first story to my writers' critique group, I was so excited. The story was perfect. I had amazed myself with my own creative genius. The plot was flawless, and the characters honed and three-dimensional. (Do I hear some laughing in the background? That's okay. I'm laughing too.)

Then my crit partners proceeded to tear it apart, and showed me exactly what was wrong with my poor story, and how blind I had become in the excitement of putting words down on the page.

I have since learned that in order to be a member of a writing workshop you have to learn to be tough. You have to admit that your first draft has failed and let others point that out to you. You also have to accept that failure is okay, and that it's part of the process of getting to the perfect story.

I love being a member of a critique group. Having someone tell you exactly what is wrong with your story hurts at first, yes, but it is incredibly valuable to the writing process. I get so close to my story that I have trouble seeing its faults, and I need someone to point them out to me. I have become a much better writer by getting critiqued.

If you are not part of a critique group or workshop, consider joining one as a goal for 2012. There are plenty of online groups if you don't know of any close to you. It takes being tough and admitting failure, but it's worth it.

This post is part of the Insecure Writer's Support Group hosted by Alex J. Cavanaugh. We post the first Wednesday of every month. Check out some of the other blogs below participating in this event!


  1. Oh man, I've been there. Haven't we all? I remember my first, ouch. This is a great post. And is that a Jawa for your profile pic? Awesome sauce.

  2. Handing your story over to others for critique is so hard the first few times. Such a vulnerable moment. But you're so right, it's the only way to get better as a writer.

  3. I have a hard time with this myself. I need to first trust and believe in the opinion of the critique group before I'll go rip my story apart for them. But it looks like you made it through the grueling process. Congrats!

  4. I haven't been brave enough to try a critique group, but I admire you for it. As frustrating as it may be, I'm sure it's a great learning experience. Julie

  5. Rena - Yep, it does sting a little at first! And it isn't a Jawa, though it would not be strange for me to have a Jawa as my profile pic. haha. It is Vivi, a character from the video game Final Fantasy IX.

    L.G. - It's true, I think you don't get anywhere until you let other people comment on your work.

    Donelle - Thanks! It is tricky if you don't know the people and can be hard at first, but once you see that their suggestions are helpful (which hopefully they are, and if they aren't then find a new critique group!), it gets easier.

    Julie - I hope you find yourself brave enough some day! Perhaps an online group wouldn't be as intimidating? It is a wonderful way to improve your writing.

  6. I learn so much from my writers group. Even when they are not talking about something I wrote. Its a great place to make other supportive friends too.

  7. Hey Allison! I'm a new follower through Alex's IWSG.

    Your take on criticism is so refreshing! The subject of criticism seem to be the theme today in the blogosphere.

    I, too, believe criticism is key to getting better. That's not to say a Critique Partner should be mean, but when someone who knows what they're talking about tells you exactly what's wrong, you have to take a step back and re-examine it.

    My very first CP was very mean, but he was also right. Once I got over the crying, my skin was a little thicker, and I had learned a valuable lesson. Shampoo, rinse, and repeat, and you'll get better in no time. It's a great formula. And it works.

  8. Hi Allison! Thanks for stopping by my blog earlier! I totally can't wait to get to the critique group stage with my first novel... my trouble is that I think I will never show it to anyone because it's not perfect yet... maybe it's good that I know it's not perfect... but I'm eventually going to have to show it to someone. Ack!

  9. My critique partners have done more for me than I could have ever achieved on my own. I love them all like I've known them forever and they have really made me a better writer. :)

  10. I have three awesome critique partners who are worth their weight in gold. They see so much I don't see. It's tough, but glad you are taking the critiques with a positive attitude!

  11. Hi Allison,nice to meet you.

    Thanks for the warning. I just joined an online writers critique group. I'm anxious to submit some of my work and nervous too. I'm sure I'll have to blog about how it goes,if I'm still standing.

    I'll be back.

  12. Your post did make me smile.

    I find it frustrating if all I get in critiques is positive comments because I know they're just afraid to say what they think, or they didn't take the time to really read it. I think there's a nice balance between ripping someone's piece to bits and saying only nice things, and being in a critique group really hones that ability, which we can then turn to our own work!

  13. I think I need to find a writing group near me, if for nothing else than to get my backside in gear and actually start writing!

  14. Hi Allison! Joining a crit group was already one of my goals for 2012, and this post just confirmed that for me, I know it is something I need to do. I had to laugh at your first paragraph, recently I wrote a short story and was amazed at my creative genius as well LOL. I have a feeling though that it probably wasn't as good as I thought at the time. :D

    So glad to meet you through the IWSG, you have a great blog!

  15. Sara - That's great! I agree, even when discussing someone else's work, you learn tons.

    Nancy - Welcome! Great formula. I think it takes a certain amount of tact and ability to be honest to be a really good critiquer--it's a tricky balance.

    fairbetty - I know how you feel! But the point is for people to tell you exactly how to make your story perfect, so I think it's worth it.

    Cassie - I would really like to get to know my critique partners like that. I am part of an online group and it is strictly critique and submit. I'm glad you treasure those bonds!

    Alex - Thanks! I certainly couldn't have had a positive attitude even a few years ago. Growing as a writer as an amazing thing!

    farawayeyes - Good luck! That's what IWSP is for if you need it :)

    Colleen - I agree. I actually learn almost as much critiquing someone else's work as getting critiqued on my own.

    Jamie - That's another good reason for joining a group that I forgot to mention! Mine does activities like Short Story in a Week, which are great in forcing you to write something.

    Julie - Glad to meet you too! I'm glad I encouraged you to try it. I know--we like to think a lot of ourselves (I do, anyway!), and I'm glad I have a critique group to keep me humble.

  16. I love my critique group. They are the best. It's so necessary to have people you can count on for help.

  17. i wish i had a crit group around here, maybe i just dont know where to look!
    and be tough, yes. but also know that you wont please everyone so you should only change what you see fit!

  18. I just added my blog to this. I have been hopping for a few days :)

  19. I have a single crit partner but I think a crit group has to be an entirely different experience. All those differing opinions all at once!

    We need them though. I'm already composing my book credits for "someday". The list is going to be long. :)

  20. Getting your work critiqued by others is DEFINITELY of MAJOR importance! It's amazing the things other people (who aren't so close to the story that their noses are basically pressed flat against it) can see. I'm so grateful to those who have read my work.

  21. Clarissa - So true. Sometimes it's hard to admit we need help, but we do.

    Tara - That's right. I get a lot of different opinions with different critiquers, and some of them conflict with each other! You have to learn to discern what's best for your story.

    BragonDorn - Welcome! It is a good way to vent frustrations and encourage one another.

    Kari - I like having more than one opinion (perhaps because if one person says it's terrible I might have another say it's good, and feel a little better. haha.) But I also have one person I always go to whose opinion I trust.

    Rachel - Exactly that.