Wednesday, July 5, 2017

IWSG and Lessons Learned

The Insecure Writer's Support Group is the brainchild of Alex J. Cavanaugh. He, his clones, minions, friends, and fellow authors make it an amazing event every month.



Purpose: To share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds!

And we’re revving up IWSG Day to make it more fun and interactive! Every month, we'll announce a question that members can answer in their IWSG Day post. These questions may prompt you to share advice, insight, a personal experience or story. Include your answer to the question in your IWSG post or let it inspire your post if you are struggling with something to say.


July 5 Question: What is one valuable lesson you've learned since you started writing?

So many!

One of the most valuable is to be much more careful about sharing my work.
I was a member of a small online critique group with a few absolutely wonderful women. Kind, generous, talented, thoughtful, insightful. Everyone brought something different to the table and I think we helped each other enormously.

A friend of one of the women asked to join the group and we agreed. She wasn't a good fit for me.

Her critiques were cruelty disguised as humour. She didn't have a single good thing to say. I'm not someone who needs false or effusive praise. I enjoy a crit buddy pointing out where I can improve and when something isn't working. I like the truth.

But, I couldn't handle her crit style. Her vicious comments hit me at a vulnerable time and it took me many, many months before I could face the keyboard with any joy. I slipped out of the critique group and backed away from sharing my words with anyone.

I've come to realize that the problem may have been hers, not mine. She didn't like the genre, didn't think humour belonged in romance, didn't like banter between the characters, didn't like the lack of description (she had a point there!), and wanted more introspection. Her complaints were more about a conflict in styles than a comment on my writing, but they were nasty. Thoughtful and encouraging advice I received from two agents at the same time helped me see that her critique was not only unnecessarily cruel, but not justified. Nonetheless, her words set me back a long, long way.

Now, I'm much more careful about crit buddies. And while I mourn the loss of the other members of the crit group, removing this woman from my circle was worth it.

How about you? Any crit buddy horror stories out there?

38 comments:

  1. I've been fortunate with my critique partners. Sorry you got someone who was so horrible. Some people just suck the joy out of life. I guess since they aren't enjoying it, they don't think anyone else should either.

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    1. Exactly. I've learned from that time - but sometimes it feels like I'm still in recovery mode :)

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  2. Sorry to hear that you went through this Jemi - sometimes all it takes is one rotten apple. I don't blame you for being cautious about critiquing after that experience. I'm glad you've managed to get through it and back to writing again. No-one needs that kinds of negativity in their lives. :)

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    1. Thanks! It's the negativity that is so draining. I'm all for honest critiques, but that was something else entirely :)

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  3. One rotten apple all right. Some people just can't say anything good about others. (I know someone like that here online.) I'm glad you finally got past her harsh words and moved on. I bet she's still back in the dust, complaining away.

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    1. I believe we know the same person - I feel sorry for anyone who lives in that negative sphere all the time.

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  4. ACK! I'm so sorry for you. That should never happen. I would've tucked my tail in and ran. That kind of advice is hurtful and detrimental not only to your writing but to your self-worth. I'm glad you don't use her as a critique buddie any longer.

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    1. Thanks! It was tough sliding away from the others, but I haven't missed her for a moment!

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  5. I had a person beta one of my manuscripts who just didn't "get" it. I know that's an excuse a lot of bad writers make as self-defense, but her biggest suggestion would have changed the fundamental nature of the story, so I feel justified in saying that. But at least she wasn't nasty about it. Having a difference of opinion on what should be in a novel or genre is fine, even if it ultimately leads the two partners to realize the partnership won't work. There's never a need to be nasty, though. Sorry you lost the good members of your group, but glad you got out of the bad situation, Jemi.

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    1. Thanks Jeff. I think, like your situation, it came down to a matter of style. She wanted 'loftier' prose and didn't like the humorous banter. Our styles definitely didn't mesh :)

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  6. Getting a right fit with critique partners is important. In my first group, we weren't careful enough is filling spots when people left. We ended up with a person who couldn't take critiques and would retaliate by being pretty critical with no positives in retaliation. I just stopped saying much about the problems in his work because of that. Now I'm in a great group.

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    1. That is tough! It really is difficult to find the right group and it's interesting how one person can throw off the balance of the entire group. Glad you're in a good spot now!

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  7. This is why I don't belong to critique groups. How someone critiques your work is so key, so I find people I know will tell me the truth in a way I will be able to hear it. Great lesson here, Jemi.

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  8. Jemi, I had a singing teacher who did what you describe here to me and it's taken me years to recover. Let's not allow anyone else to steal our joy!!!

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    1. We won't Karen! Joy is too precious and we'll hang on tightly. Took me a while to get my mojo back, but I'm there :)

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  9. I did work with one partner like that. She ultimately decided to back away from critiquing because her life was too insane, and I can't say I'm sorry. Any experienced critique partner will lift you up while posing questions that take your game to a new level. If they don't, they're not worth keeping around.

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    1. Totally agree! I miss my other ladies from the crit group, but it was an all or nothing situation and I'm better off this way :)

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  10. Omigosh, yes. When I started, I belonged to two wonderful online critique groups. People went their own ways and I searched for another one. The one I found had a few members like your person. I was affected the same as you. It took a while after I left for me to get over it. It's really hard because like with you, some of the comments were good and I learned. But I could no longer take all the other. We're better for the experience. Right?

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    1. We are! It was completely devastating at the time but I've found perspective and I'm glad she's outside of my circle now :)

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  11. My mantra for this decade has become, "Avoid the toxic people." Makes life so much more pleasant, and it gives time to fill my life with people I enjoy. Thanks for the story and congratulations for moving on after that experience.

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    1. That's an awesome mantra!!! I'll be adopting that one! :)

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  12. Ouch. I haven't had any experiences that bad. I've also learned how to balance the positive and the negative when I give feedback. I think it's difficult to critique partner with someone who writes in a different genre.

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    1. I agree. It was definitely a learning experience - and one I don't wish to repeat :)

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  13. I had a beta reader once who was rude and nasty in all of her comments for no reason other than to tear me and my story down, and make it seem like the author (me) was doing an awful job. Like you, that came at a time when I was vulnerable and it hurt a lot. It was also not true and uncalled for.

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    1. So glad you were able to recognize that! It was such a blow and it's taken a long time to get through it. I don't understand nastiness!

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  14. Once you find the critique tribe that "gets you" it does make all the difference. Bravo for you realizing how that person was tearing you down. Hugs.

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    1. Thanks Leslie! I definitely loved having a solid tribe!! :)

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  15. I've been lucky that my crit partners have been pretty supportive. I don't always agree with their comments, and I learned to take some of their comments with a grain of salt, but overall they've been great.

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    1. That's what I had before - and what I've got now - just that one anomaly! Hard to take :)

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  17. HI, Jemi,

    How awful for you. I think we have all experienced a crit partner like that as some point in our journey. I did when I first started, but thankfully the others in the group we kind and very helpful.

    Crit buddies sadly come and go, but at some point you will have those treasured few that you can rely on. It's also good to every now and then said it to a close writer friend if they have the time. I was thankful that I had a male POV on one of my novels. He had some amazing insight especially since this MC is a teenage male.

    Happy to hear that you are back on track and loving writing again.

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    1. So true! I'm sure my experience isn't uncommon. Almost every writer I know is kind and generous with their time. Sounds like you've hit some good ones too! :)

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  18. I have one of my translating editors who is cruel like that, when she's done with editing grammar in our translations we usually feel like stupid little kids :) Ain't good for the self esteem indeed. Others don't do that. And I think I know enough grammar after ten years of work

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    1. I think you do as well - that kind of senseless nastiness is hard to take!

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  19. Hey Jemi,

    I don't blame you for not exactly appreciating her crit style. I'm sure you're quite correct, that actually, the problem was within her and her negative, spiteful attitude, thinly disguised as alleged human. Nope, you don't need that sort of garbage.

    I've never had a crit buddy. Correction, Penny is my crit buddy. However, she's kind and constructive in any criticism of my writing. Then again, as you will know, she an acclaimed pawblisher! :)

    Have a good one and keep focusing on those who are yaysayers, not naysayers.

    Gary :)

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    1. Thank Gary! I'm definitely happier with the yaysayers like you and Penny in my world!! :)

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  20. Oh, gosh, I hate critiques that are so needlessly cruel like that. Sorry her comments affected you like they did, but I'm glad you're away from such negativity now...

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  21. Critiquing is a learned skill just like writing is, and often it's folks newer to it who haven't developed the art of discerning which things are genuine "writing problems" and which are personal reading preferences. I've definitely had some of those harsh comments meant to back my story into the CP's style preference corner.

    I try to use those experiences to help me be a better CP and better editor. There are ways to talk about your concerns without crushing anyone's spirit.

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