The Criticism

The book isn’t done yet. Odd place to start an argument, but I had to throw that premise out there before I went much further. To reiterate, in case you missed it. The book is not done — yet.

Anyway, toddling along as I am in my writing. The fits and spurts that give me a few hundred words everyday are great. I’ve switched to long-hand almost constantly now. It gives me time to look at my writing without feeling the negative connotation of self-editing into making my progress slower. I feel like my writing has definitely grown since the first words were put to paper in November.

Speaking of November, I have a friend who had been reading my writing as I go since then. Some will say shame on me, but having been immersed in that red-headed stepchild of writing (re: fanfiction) I know how great a motivator it is to simply have someone waiting on the next installment of my book. And it helped. I made it to 50,000 words, didn’t I? The best part was the agreement we had previously. He would read it, he wanted to read it, but he wouldn’t give me hints, suggestions, criticism or anything until I was done. Flash-forward a few weeks, I thought he meant until the book was done, he meant until November was over.

So he gives me a critique on the phone as I am driving home from work because I brought up a conversation of the debate in writing in First Person present or past tense. Different post. Anyway — he tells me that a very climatic part of my book didn’t read very well and the important piece of information that needed to be revealed then fell flat (my words). I will then put my reaction mildly: I didn’t take it very well.

Looking back now, I know the majority of the next hour long, upsetting conversation was because I have never taken criticism well. Especially to personal, creative projects. And my writing really embodies all of that. I’m a math teacher for crying out loud. I only write because I have since I can remember and enjoy it too much to fall prey to the old cliche of left-brain/right-brain people. So I’m a little sensitive…a little. In my defense, refer to earlier. I was under the assumption we were doing the critiquing stuff later. Like when the book was done.

All of this leads to one large, arcing question. How true is the myth that once you begin to edit during a first draft, the story will probably end up unfinished? Two recent books about writing I’ve read, No Plot? No Problem! by Chris Baty (creator of NaNoWriMo) and On Writing by Stephen King both speak of simply writing all the way through. Don’t look, don’t think, just go from beginning to end letting the story grow and contort until you reach the end. Neither completely disregard an outline for those that are protesting in their seats. They advocate just disregarding the desire to check, read over, and edit what you have just written each time.

I, personally, am torn. I feel that I have to go and keep going because I’ve already slowed down too much. But, my friend argued with me that if it truly bothered me so much, that I should just go back and fix it. Then stop and continue writing the rest of the story. I couldn’t quite explain all the intricacies this one plot point effected, but the simplistic premise is to go back or not…

Reading this post from Leo Baubata: How to Accept Criticism with Grace and Appreciation, I realized that I wanted and will need my friend’s criticism later. And later, I will simply have to swallow my fears, mistrust, and low writing self-esteem to get the information I need to be better at what I want to do. But does that mean I have the right(?) to completely shut him out now and the suggestions he offers?

Is it truly so bad to not touch the beginning of the book again until The End is printed?