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Posts Tagged how to be an author
Today I’m answering these questions at the website of the Alliance of Independent Authors. What was the best decision I ever made? (Thankfully they didn’t ask about my worst…) Do drop in.
Keep the faith: a mindset to put criticism in perspective… and a tip to stay inspired through multiple revisions
The students at my Guardian masterclasses always keep me on my toes with great questions and suggestions. (I teach advanced self-editing for fiction writers aka ‘put your book through the wringer and feel great afterwards’.) Here’s a discussion that I thought was too good to keep to ourselves.
Question: how to take criticism
One writer remarked that she found it deeply painful to receive criticism about her work. Not because she thought she didn’t need it. She keenly appreciated that a perceptive critical appraisal would be full of helpful pointers. She would act on its suggestions.
But still she could never escape this gut-level reaction: this darn well hurts.
As an author who can agonise for years over a manuscript, I never forget what it costs. A long game of stubborn persistence, scrunched drafts, discipline and self-belief. This, I think, is why the criticism is so painful – because it seems to disregard that epic effort. But even if the book isn’t yet perfect, the glitches found in a critique are minor in quantity if you compare them with the work already done. A critique shouldn’t be seen as invalidation of your investment in the book, or an indication that you’re not fit to be in charge of it. You know you built it from many careful decisions. A critique is the final piece of help to allow you to complete that work.
(You might also like this post – Why your editor admires you. )
Question: how to stay inspired through multiple revisions
So the theme of the day was persistence. Many drafts, lots of graft, honing until your eyes cross. But how, one writer asked, do we keep hold of our vision and stay the distance?
I talked about The Undercover Soundtrack. Of course I did; you know that’s my thing. One student countered with a delightful variation. She collected album covers for inspiration, for promises of ideas and worlds and characters. Isn’t that divine?
That crossed a dream; afternoons in Camden’s Record & Tape Exchange, enthralled by the track listings of albums, though just as often, the songs couldn’t live up to my hopes. Ah well. (These do, though; from Jonsi. )
This is what we need over the long period of writing and editing. We need ways to refresh our excitement and anticipation, our belief that the book is worth persisting with until it fulfils our hopes.
(BTW, if you need handholding there’s plenty in Nail Your Novel: Why Writers Abandon Books and how you can Draft, Fix and Finish With Confidence. Or there’s my Guardian self-editing bootcamp.)
So I’ll end with two questions. How do you take criticism, deep in your heart of hearts? Have you developed coping mechanisms and what are they? And how do you keep your inspiration through multiple drafts?
Guardian masterclass, how to be an author, how to edit your book, how to edit your novel, how to write a better novel, Jonsi, learn to edit your work well, music and writing, publishing, Record and Tape Exchange Camden, self-belief as a writer, self-belief as an author, self-editing, The Guardian, writing
I just discovered that Mixcloud, where Surrey Hills Radio archive the show I present with bookseller Peter Snell, has a function to share episodes on WordPress. Now you might be thinking I’ve posted a lot of audio and video recently, so let me reassure you I haven’t abandoned text. That would be somewhat absurd for a blog by a writer anyway, as prose is our instrument. Prose posts will be resumed, fear not.
But Mixcloud has these twinkling buttons, so here goes. The episode I’ve chosen is the special we recorded at Easter, where we ran through highlights of previous shows with the music we played at the time. For lo, one of the joys of working with a radio station is that they are licensed to broadcast music. (So you get the bliss of my music collection, for better or worse.)
We usually stick to two carefully chosen tracks that illustrate the topic under discussion, more or less. All right, sometimes it’s tenuous when I want an excuse to play something. Think of it as a ‘back to mine’ evening, with writing talk. But this episode we collected a few of our favourites together, so you get Symphony of Science, Grace Jones, Christopher Cross, The Eagles, Avalanches, Paul Weller, Nick Cave and a few other surprises which we’ll keep for you to discover. Hope you enjoy the trip.
Avalanches, Christopher Cross, episode, Grace Jones, how to be a writer, how to be an author, Nick Cave, Paul Weller, Peter Snell, radio show, Roz Morris, So You Want To Be A Writer, Surrey Hills Radio, Symphony of Science, The Eagles
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- ‘Rubble-strewn streets and lost souls’ – The Undercover Soundtrack, SD Mayes October 12, 2018
- What makes a winner? Lessons from judging a writing competition September 19, 2018
- What do you read when you’re writing? It’s complicated September 17, 2018