1. Electralight
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    Electralight Member

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    Do you judge your own writing?

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by Electralight, Jan 17, 2016.

    When I write, I always compare it to other authors. I don't know why (maybe because we are our own hardest judge?) but I always feel like my writing isn't "professional enough" if that makes any sense.
    It may be because I am young, and only have a few years of serious writing under my belt, but does anyone else feel like they have a long way to go before they would feel comfortable sharing their works? Is there anything I could do to change this?
     
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  2. Ben414
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    Ben414 Contributing Member Contributor

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    Answering the question of how to get comfortable enough to share: I would say it depends on why you aren't comfortable sharing.

    For example, some people don't like getting critiqued because their self-worth is tied to the work they do. For these people, I would say get to know your critics, so that you can be assured your critics will already value you and that won't be affected by the quality of your work. It may sound strange, but if it gets rid of your psychological block, then who cares?

    Other people don't like getting critiqued because they are afraid of having to view their current work in an accurate light. For these people, I would say realize writing is learnable and--regardless of where your writing is now--if you believe you can become an excellent writer, stick to your conviction. Realize that a critique of your current writing does not have to force you to lower your future expectations; in fact, it can help you reach those future expectations.

    That said, I don't think sharing your work is necessary for everyone who is in the early stages of learning how to write fiction. Instead, they can read writing how-to books, read other fiction books, think about which books they want their writing to be like, study those books' writing style to see how it works, try to replicate it, etc. At some point, though, I think sharing your work does become necessary for improvement.
     
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  3. Robert Musil
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    Robert Musil Contributing Member

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    Goodness, yes. One is always one's harshest critic, as they say. There are some upsides to this, though. If you can criticize yourself (within reason) before others see what you've written, it means you'll have a better product to show them. And, of course if they don't like it, the blow isn't as hard since you don't have as far to fall.

    Of course the danger is that you go too far, and become so self-critical that you induce paralysis.

    I'm not sure what advice I have to give you. I have to say, this forum is a great way to get some other people to read your stuff without risking your ego (thanks to the anonymity of the Internet), and I've found that the criticism you get here is really thoughtful and helpful the vast majority of the time. So, throw your stuff up here and see what people say--if no one else has seen it yet, it'll at least give you a baseline.
     
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  4. The Mad Regent
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    The Mad Regent Contributing Member

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    I'm highly self critical as well, and I always compare my work to professional authors.

    The only way I deal with it is to just keep learning and improving, and eventually, things will just click. I'd recommend getting comfortable with work mechanics first, like grammar and punctuation, and then focus on improving your writing technique. It's only then will you be able to sit at your typing device of choice and feel truly satisfied that the work you're producing is what you want it to be.
     
  5. TWErvin2
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    TWErvin2 Contributing Member Contributor

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    Remember, what you're comparing your writing against: Your Early Drafts vs. Final/Published Drafts.

    Even when writing the first draft of a novel, your writing will be better nearing the end, than it was in the beginning.

    Mainly for two reasons: 1. You're writing and practice improves. 2. You know the characters and the world you've created better.

    Novels go through many drafts, each stage an improvement. And most novels you read (except for some, but nowhere near all self-published) have been professionally edited. My latest novel with through 8 drafts on my own, then an additional one with my publisher's editor. And then I proofed the galley. So 10 times.

    Even then, when you're looking at another author's work and yours, it's not exactly comparing apples to apples. Your story and your writing style will never match another author's, and you will excel in some areas, say dialogue, but maybe not be as strong in say pacing or description.

    Keep at it and keep improving, and rather than compare your work, study those novels that you've enjoyed. See how those authors accomplished what you're trying to do, then apply what you learn/discover to your own storyline and writing style.
     
  6. The Mad Regent
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    The Mad Regent Contributing Member

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    Terry, I have a question: do you find yourself changing large chunks of your first draft when working towards your second draft, or is it fairly minimal relative to the bulk of the text?
     
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  7. TWErvin2
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    TWErvin2 Contributing Member Contributor

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    The Mad Regent,

    I do not change large chunks of my novel after the first draft is written. That may be because I have a rough outline that I work from, or my method of writing. When I sit down to write, I review the previous section I wrote, modify/edit it, then add new words. The next time, I modify/edit last session's new words and add new ones. I also make notes for changes, but they're usually minor. I've not removed, say 5000 word chunks of text from a novel, or moved chapter two's contents to chapter 5.

    But that's just me, and what works for me may not be what works for another writer.
     
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  8. The Mad Regent
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    The Mad Regent Contributing Member

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    I work in a similar fashion -- I write a chapter, and then revise it substantially before moving on to the next.

    The worry I have, though, is finishing a first draft and then realizing during the second draft that I despise it, resulting in me cutting it to shreds.

    Maybe I should have more faith in my own abilities.
     
  9. Cave Troll
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    Cave Troll Bite the bullet, do your own thing. Contributor

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    I am my own worst critic, so why bother comparing myself to a myriad of good and bad authors. That why it takes me so long to write things, cause I always figure everything I write is crap. So why worry about comparing yourself to others that are on both ends of the spectrum? If you like it, then somebody else will like it too. Perfection is impossible, and a point of a percent of great authors consistently create master pieces. Fortunately most of those people are dead, and should be respected for what they did. For everyone else, we are somewhere in the middle. :p
     
  10. KhalieLa
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    KhalieLa It's not a lie, it's fiction. Contributor

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    I'm not as critical as I used to be, but that's because I hire out some of the work. Neither of my degrees are in anything remotely related to English. I know my editor will clean up anything I send him for the magazine before it goes to print, so no worries there. It's different with my novel though. I paid a grad-student $200 to read through it and mark all my SPAG. Then I went back and correct all the errors before I offered it to beta readers or brought it to my critique group. (She didn't catch it all, I still find some here and there that needs taken care of, but it helped to have an extra set of eyes on it before sending it out to others.)
     
  11. Nicoel
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    Nicoel Contributing Member

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    I'm really hard on myself. At least, I tell myself that. ;) I don't feel like I'm all that great at writing yet; I feel as though I'm a child trying to do grown up things. Thing is, that's how kids get to the point where they can do grown up things. I'm working on it.

    Recently I edited a family friend's book (I'm hesitant to call it a novel - it's more of an amalgamation of information) and read his short story for him, and that really made me wonder about my own abilities. He already has a deal with a publisher (I think...) with his novel and he received feedback about his short story. According to him, the publisher really liked his short story and they said he had talent.

    If I were to give a critique on his short story, it would have been covered in red highlighter and comments. The entire story was an info dump, the writer didn't carry the comparison all the way through, there were a lot of grammar errors that even I could identify, among a myriad of other problems.

    I don't know if I was being too harsh on him, or if I don't know what I'm doing, he was exaggerating what the publisher said, or my own writing is some pretty hot shit next to his. Who knows? All I can do is be the best I can be, and hope his publisher has some great editors.
     
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  12. The Mad Regent
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    The Mad Regent Contributing Member

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    I've recently read that it's all about story (or writing technique) these days, which is probably why I consider most contemporary prose as bad. If a story strikes a chord in people then that probably overshadows poor prose. I read a lot of classic literature, and the prose is on another level compared to the stuff I'd see in modern books. The way they use long beautifully crafted sentences as a descriptive roller coaster that sets the tempo and stirs emotion. The way they use punctual tools to perfection, so they can create a smooth and coherent flow of text that seems authentic. Not a series of short sentences and full stops like the dots and dashes of Morse code: a flat and tedious read that rings in the psyche like a dial tone.

    Personally, I can't see how one can write a convincing story without having strong word mechanics. It's like trying to build a mansion without any tools. Great writing comes when skill, technique, and genuine sincerity collide and crash upon the page.
     
    Last edited: Jan 17, 2016
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  13. Kittophoros
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    Kittophoros Member

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    Oh yeah, I'm a hard-core judge when it comes to what I write. Even though, I've had positive feedback in the workshops I've taken, I still have that voice in the back of my head that tells me that everyone will make fun of me if I share what I write. It's pretty easy to hold yourself to some sky-high standard while being much more reasonable with others. One thing that helps me get over this is remembering one of my friends from college. He is the absolute most positive person on the planet and seeing him being able to make himself vulnerable when it comes to his art is really cool. When I see how much respect he can draw from me by just being himself and taking criticism well, I can't help but know that taking risks will pay off every time, even if you only learn what you can improve.
     
  14. Nicoel
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    Nicoel Contributing Member

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    See, now you're just showing off.

    :D

    According to the standards you hold literature to, then you would agree with my assessment of this man's book. I do agree with you though; I much prefer to read a book with beautiful prose than writing techniques that involve a worn out comma key.
     
  15. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    Yes to all of this. A story is just a collection of ideas. How you convey your ideas so they come alive in the reader's head is down to technique. You really need to develop both ideas AND technique.

    It makes me sad that there are so many people out there who badly want to be writers, but who somehow bypassed the basics during their school days. Anybody can make an occasional SPAG error, but when the MS is so littered with them that it's borderline incoherent? That's just so sad.

    It's a lot of work—but fun—to learn the techniques of creative writing—how to pace a novel so it keeps the reader on board, improve dialogue, create lively characters, etc—but I don't know how easy it is for adults to overcome a lack of SPAG knowledge. SPAG is basic to any kind of writing. I think I'd go back to the old bottom line. Read. Read constantly. Read to the point where you instinctively know how to get your meaning across, gracefully and invisibly, when you write. You CAN learn by osmosis—but it takes a lot of exposure to good writing to do that. I don't know how else to overcome this problem.
     
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  16. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    If you pick your first betas carefully, and make sure they know you ARE looking for advice to improve and won't be crushed by criticism, you should be fine. Choose somebody who knows their stuff, but don't give your work to anybody you think might be horrible to you because you're a beginner. Also don't give your work to anybody you think will just rubber-stamp approval either. That may be a boost to your ego, but it will only result in more upset down the line, when somebody more honest gets hold of your writing.

    The thing about good feedback is that it energises you—it should never discourage you. You walk away from helpful feedback thinking YES, that's EXACTLY what was wrong. And now that I see the problem, I can fix it. YAY! If the feedback you get discourages you, keep looking for other beta readers till you come across a truly helpful one. One who will point out problems, but then offer ideas how to make the problems go away.

    You do have to leave your ego behind, though, when you start this process. And be aware that improvement means you weren't perfect to start with. Nobody is. If you're too touchy, and either get angry or give up every time somebody offers a suggestion or observation, you won't ever improve.
     
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  17. Lifeline
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    Lifeline The Dark - not in Wonderland Supporter Contributor

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    That is the most beautiful description of writing I have ever heard. Thanks :)

    I am with her in that. The one point I have to add is, be careful that you don't get stuck on any one style. Read different books, different authors, different genres. And write, constantly. Don't stop.
     
  18. IlaridaArch
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    IlaridaArch Active Member

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    I always fall into doing it. And its SENSATIONAL!!?!?
     
  19. Mordred85
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    Mordred85 Active Member

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    Fuck it, I wrote a long ass comment, but no. It's not worth it.
    So the answer is YES. I absolutely judge my own writing.
     
  20. Robert Musil
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    Robert Musil Contributing Member

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    I once went to a museum exhibit on Picasso, but it focused on his early days, long before he created any of the works he's famous for. So these were drawings he had made in art school, or even as a child. They were mostly just simple graphite or charcoal line drawings, nothing fancy. But what I was struck by was: long before he was an innovative genius, Picasso was just a guy who was really, really good at drawing. Like, normal, realistic drawings of flowers or houses or whatever. Long before he became an innovative genius, he had become a master at producing drawings which are not terribly original and are actually kind of boring and prosaic. But he learned to do them so well that this knowledge of basics later enabled him to become a genius who turned the art world on its head.

    We all have an enormous temptation to try and get that Guernica we have inside us out on the first try. I know the first dozen or so pieces I ever tried to write, I didn't bother to fight this temptation, and of course they all came out as embarrassingly juvenile dreck. It was hard to get into my head that my writing isn't completely within my control--that it has to respond to things outside myself, beginning with SPAG rules but also genre conventions, audience expectations etc. At least if I want anyone to read it and appreciate it in some respect. It's hard to realize that, because in itself it's a blow to your ego ("But why can't my genius shine through unfiltered by society's expecatations?!"), and because we've all been taught that authors (or any artists) are, in the best case, lone geniuses whose idiosyncratic creative process toils away until the fully-formed, perfect result is revealed to the adoring public, etc. What I've come to realize (at least in theory, if I still don't practice it perfectly) is that I have to make this all less about myself and more about the work. If I have to take a bruise to the ego to make the work better, I think the tradeoff is worth it in the long run.
     
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  21. Link the Writer
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    Link the Writer Flipping Out For A Good Story. Contributor

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    I do it all the time. :p Lately, though, I've realized that I can only compare my draft now to what it looked like a month ago, or a year ago. Comparing myself to a big-time author with years of publishing experience would be like a small child who can barely throw a punch comparing him/herself to Jackie Chan. In the long run, it does nothing but ruin the self-esteem because you're always asking, "Why can't I be like them?"

    You're not. You're you. You don't want to be a clone of someone else, you want to be the best you that you can possibly be in anything you do.
     
  22. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    Use the Writing Workshop for its intended purpose.

    <sermon>

    The Writing Workshop exists in our forum as a venue for you to work on your skills in identifying what works and what doesn't, what captivates and what is banal, what intrigues and what bores. Give critiques. Give them aplenty. I know not everyone agrees with this particular take on the matter, but I genuinely believe it's the only way. To quote the words of someone no longer with our community, others can explain to you, but no one can understand it for you. You have to do it yourself, through your own effort. Your own work is not the best place to do this because you wrote it. Had you thought there were a better way to write it, you would have written it that way, right? The work of others is safer, seperate from us, not prone to injuring our oh-so-fragile egos. And you didn't write it. You have no idea the thought process behind it, the nebulous brain-stuff that equals what I meant to get across as opposed to what actually came across.

    Don't be afraid that you will be ridiculed for your crits. Be selfish. Be self-serving. It's okay. Engage the crit as a learning process for YOU. At the end of the day we each leave here with only our own MS in hand, not the MS's of others. We are each here to improve ourselves through a combined effort.

    That is my sermon. Don't wait for others to give you advice. Give crits (either here or in another arena) as way of learning to advise yourself.

    </sermon>
     
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  23. peachalulu
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    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

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    I'm old and I still judge my writing harshly. Mainly because I feel my education is woefully inadequate so I struggle - really struggle to keep understanding the basics. It's also made worse because of all the nasty habits I developed and have had to break. Looking over my work I'm never quite sure whether I've succeeded or my grammar is undoing it all.

    My advice is to keep learning the basics and share your works on here in the workshop. The good thing about sharing on a writing site is that - we're strangers it won't sting as much, you're getting helpful advice, and when someone enjoys your work you know it's genuine not flattery. Plus, critiquing other works in the workshop lets you know you're not alone, others are making similar mistakes.
     
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  24. Tesoro
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    Tesoro Contributing Member Contributor

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    I'm really self critical but how I feel about my writing depends on who I'm comparing myself with. I'm not afraid to share my work anymore, but I'm always very critical when I compare myself to writers I like and look up to. THinking I'll never be able to write like them. And I've been writing for years.
    I think that is something all writers feel at some point. We all have someone we look up to.
     
  25. Masked Mole
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    Masked Mole Contributing Member

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    Honestly, that's how you become great. I don't know if the comparison part is necessary (there are unique geniuses), but detecting every single little error and fixing it is how improvement works.
     
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