I am not a great writer

(LINK WARNING: The YouTube links in this post are kinda bloody -- accurate metaphors, but bloody.)

Last week I got critiques back on two of my novels. They were great critiques. I mean really great, like editor-from-Tor great. (Don't get excited. They were not from an editor at Tor, nor any other Big 5 publisher; I'm still very much in submission hell.) And this super-editor critique, that I'm extremely grateful for and will probably owe my future career to, well... it totally and utterly crushed my soul.

For two days straight, I was the authorial version of John McClane's feet. I knew I could write in theory -- I mean, people have said so before and even paid me for doing so -- but I couldn't make myself believe it. I didn't feel right reviewing other people's stories or even Torment docs. I felt like I knew nothing about telling a story or stringing words together.

Then I had a revelation, and I want to share it with you because I know all too well how common the soul-crushing critique is. The revelation is this:

I am not a great writer.

But damn can I revise.

Twisting it that way changes everything. If I think I can write, but then I get this critique that rips through my novel like a chain blade through a clan of ninjas, then surely I know nothing. I'm a pretender, a wannabe, and I will never get it right.

But if I consider myself a reviser, then a critique like that is expected -- desired even. It's just more ammunition to do what I'm really good at. Everything I write is going to get critiqued that hard, so it's a damn good thing that I can revise anything.

Don't get me wrong, the critique still hurts, and it's going to take a lot of work for me be happy with it again, but thinking of it that way gave me back the motivation I needed to tackle it. This is something I can do.


Steve MC said...

A great critique can put you on your knees, yeah. It's like your first few times through a video game level, in that you die many horrible deaths.

But if you ask for help, and go through it again with a pro giving you tips on what weapons to use at what time, you're looking badass, and soon ready to take on the Boss.

Authoress said...

I'm just gonna sit here and say you ARE a great writer. Just to be a devil's advocate (and huge fan girl).

But, yeah. Thinking that way will certainly help alleviate the soul-crushingness. I would hate for you to have your soul crushed. Because you have so many more fabulous stories to write. :)

Matthew MacNish said...

Whatever works is good, I think, but I also second Authoress.

Sarah Ahiers said...

I'm terrified that I am, in fact, NOT a great reviser, so I have to take the opposite approach and tell myself that I AM a great writer. And that I'm okay at revising sometimes, and usually this is enough to see me through to something that's not bad.

Or at least I hope...

fairyhedgehog said...

I've just had some good critiques on a couple of short stories and I feel exhausted just thinking about what I need to change. Revising is hard work so kudos to you for being good at it!

Susan Kaye Quinn said...

Having actually read your stories, I can say with confidence you are a fantastic writer. We each have a process by which we produce our best work (and that best work is, or should be, constantly improving): apparently, your process involves soul-crushing. I wish this weren't true... or perhaps that this realization that you have the chops to revise into your best work will help you skip that soul-crushing part in the future. I hope so. Because battling that dark force that takes any little excuse to crush your soul and prevent you from producing your creative works? That's your biggest challenge.

And it that, you have my sword, sir!

Susan Kaye Quinn said...

*in that*

Myrna Foster said...

I've never read an early draft of yours, but I did get to read a revision of one that I critiqued. You nailed the big issues, smoothing out the little ones. That revision sang. So, yeah, you can revise. :o)

You hate writing first drafts anyway.

My husband can't be in the same room when I'm reading a critique. He compared it to watching someone get tortured.

K. Marie Criddle said...

I think one of the greatest measures of personal progression is having an objective view of how good we are at something we love. And even greater progression comes from wanting and knowing how to change. So while I echo people here and say "YOU ARE AN AWESOME WRITER!" I think that accepting and loving those critiques as a stepping stone to better writing speaks more to your talent, you know? It's definitely something I need to accept more.

And bring on those revising tips because boy howdy, I feel my manuscripts need to be bloodied up a bit. ::squish::

Deniz Bevan said...

What a brilliant way to look at it!