Sunday, 21 June 2009

5. Peer Critiquing... or, How to check on how robust your self-confidence really is.

Once you have exhausted all the friends, relatives, and general acquaintances that you can cajole into giving you an opinion on your Masterpiece; (which, invariably will be positive... because they don't want to upset you by giving you an honest opinion)... it's time to launch yourself into the world of Literary Piranhas.

But, firstly... a Heads-up...

Are you of a nervous disposition, or prone to:

1) The onset of a touch of the vapours at the slightest criticism?

2) An inclination to throw your teddy into the corner if it doesn't all go your way?

3) Susceptible to doing a "Violet Elizabeth" if you don't agree with what your critics say?

(For those not familiar with this expression... Violet Elizabeth Bott is a character in the "Just William" series of children's short stories by Richmal Crompton. She is the lisping precocious, simpering, seven year old, spoiled daughter of the local nouveau riche millionaire; whose companionship William reluctantly endures, to prevent her carrying out her threat of... "I'll thcream and thcream 'till I'm thick.")

More here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Just_William

If you answered "Yes" to any of these three questions, then perhaps you are not really cut out to be an author.

Now to the main subject... Critiquing.

This is defined as: “to review or discuss critically." Critique is still regarded by many as pretentious jargon. What it really means is this:

All writers at some point need critiques by their peers. After working on a piece for so long, it's really easy to miss seeing its problems. Writers need to see their work through fresh eyes. All manner of things will become apparent in your work that you never considered. Good feed back will point you to problems other people discovered. You will also discover how it affected them. Did it touch them, make them laugh; make them sad? Did it draw them into the plot? Did it affect them at all?

This is where the Peer group comes in. Be prepared; if you choose to use a forum or any social networking group, you will get all manner of opinions on your work; ranging from... on the one hand; the fixated reader who sounds as though he/she will probably start stalking you and wants to have babies with you; to the supercilious, self-styled, literary virtuoso who pompously rubbishes your work, as "Nescient Drivel." (Crap; to you and me.)

The Australians have the perfect saying for one of these latter types:
"he's really up himself"... ( to have a high opinion of oneself .)

Sensibly; you should try for one of the places where ordinary people like you and me want to have their work reviewed by ordinary, struggling writers, in exchange for reviewing theirs.

One to try is "Free Stories Center" at www.freestoriescenter.com/

I put chapters of my published book on there a while ago, and received several useful reviews.
So; you ask ...what happens if the story I put on there gets published later? Easy! Email the webmaster Sean Bryant, and he will remove the story. He even put the back cover blurb of the book, and a link to Amazon on the site for me. Nice Guy; and well worth thinking about.

The other is "YouWriteOn" at http://www.youwriteon.com/

This one is a MUST. They published my first novel through Legend Press and their imprint New Generation Publishing. Edward (Ted) Smith at YouWriteOn is also a really helpful guy.

So; the moral is:
Be brave! You have nothing to lose but your anonymity!

Next time:

To Boldly Go... ?

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