Home - is where I want to be / But I guess I'm already there /I come home -
she lifted up her wings /
Guess that this must be the place...
- Talking Heads, "Naive Melody"

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Battling the "I Suck" Demon

This was, actually, predictable. As I've mentioned six or seven times now, I've joined Critters. This past week, my first submission, the first chapter of the first novel in the series I've been pouring effort into for what feels like half my life now, went up for review.

And got almost entirely ignored. The usual and sought-for average is 8-10 responses. I got two. The only reasons I refuse to crit pieces I've been sent are a) it's a horror story, since I don't like those, or b) it sucks so much that I can't even figure out where to start telling the author how to fix it. So... ouch.

The verdict, such as it is with only two jurors, is that my grasp of the English language is fine at the sentence and word level, but that the chapter is a structural mess. Too many POVs, too many time jumps, too many obscure motives. As a writer, one has a choice of two responses:
  • They don't know what they're talking about
  • I suck
Being a creature of dubious self-confidence on my best days, I tend toward the latter. The only reassuring thing is that I am pretty sure that every other writer who has ever lived has come face to face with this creature, and most of them lived to tell the tale. Oh, some of them may have quit writing, but obviously, we never heard about them. Others faced the sucker down and kept on going.

So, we have a date in December, my first chapter and I. Even as I type this, I think (I am, after all, an optimist) that the problem is probably mostly in the early chapters. I've rewritten them too many times, added, taken away, condensed, reordered, and expanded and left myself with a muddle. It can be fixed, and maybe there are fewer problems later... maybe.

Of course, if no one out there is willing to read even chapter one, I might never find out.


Jenni said...

That sounds tough. I'm sorry to hear it. Did the two critiques you got offer any concrete suggestions or were they just reactions? I'm not familiar with the group or any of the rules but it seems like poor form to accept critiques and not offer them up. It's probably impractical to expect one from every member but I imagine the aim is to establish that kind of equal give-and-take.

RJS said...

My two respondents did have constructive thoughts, which I will ponder (after Nano! ;). I am still new there, not sure how often this happens, but the system is very much planned around "give to get". Still, there's no real way to enforce it for every piece submitted, just on an average basis.

Thanks for posting!

Adrienne Martini said...

If it's any help -- and you're not in a hurry -- I wouldn't mind taking a look at it...

RJS said...

Thank you. :) I might take you up on that -- after I've put some more work into it. Ouchy though it is, there seems to be a thread of uniformity in the responses so far (a couple more have trickled in--though I might ignore the request for more carnage...), so I suppose I'd better give the damn thing a good hard look. If only there were some sort of tranquilizer available for those undertaking the process.

But first, NaNoWriMo. :)

RJS said...

I am up to five crits now, so I feel better about that, at least, and they have all been pretty unanimous on where the problems are. Which is, in a way, a good thing. December will be "the month of revising Chapter 1"--again....