My Greatest Writing Fear. What's Yours?

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Re: My Greatest Writing Fear. What's Yours?

Post by laurasowder » 17 Oct 2015, 18:58

My greatest writing fear is that I won't be able to take the criticism. I am currently taking my first creative writing class, where we spent our classes critiquing one another's work. I have never gotten critique on my work before; I've always been too afraid to share. This is the first step in a very long process, and I am afraid my manuscripts will get destroyed. I don't want to be told that I'm awful at something that has been such a massive part of my life.

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Post by moderntimes » 17 Oct 2015, 19:22

laura, taking criticism is part and parcel of being a writer. It's also part of everyday life. Your manuscripts won't get destroyed just because they are criticized -- no teacher would do this.

You must accept fair criticism and learn from it. That way, if you writing is not quite the best possible, then you can learn from the criticism and then modify and edit you work to make it better. Thankfully we've got modern computers where editing and revision is easier, and we can save various versions of our writing so that if we change our minds and want to go back to an earlier version, we can return to it and also inter-edit these various versions to come up with the best.

I have been writing for years and I have been given lots of criticism. Some was fair and some unfair. I junk the unfair and try to learn from the fair. This is the pathway which all writers must go through. After all, in our open and everyday life, we also are imperfect and sometimes a friend will criticize us in the intent to help. Acceptance of fair criticism is part of life, for our writing and for other things.

As you begin your writing, it's understandable that you'll at first be suspect and worried. But you need to adjust your outlook and be realistic. You'll be okay, I promise.
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Post by DATo » 28 Nov 2015, 05:31

laurasowder wrote:My greatest writing fear is that I won't be able to take the criticism. I am currently taking my first creative writing class, where we spent our classes critiquing one another's work. I have never gotten critique on my work before; I've always been too afraid to share. This is the first step in a very long process, and I am afraid my manuscripts will get destroyed. I don't want to be told that I'm awful at something that has been such a massive part of my life.
You can share it with us before you submit it by posting it in the - Creative Original Works: Short Story - forum. I think you will get honest opinions here and this forum can serve as a microcosm for the reading public since we have so many experienced, erudite, and dedicated readers as members.

I agree with monderntimes, you have to view criticism as your friend. Often the opinions of others aren't worth stuffing a mattress with, but also, in equal measure, you may find pearls of wisdom in some of the critiques which may not be especially flattering. I would far more prefer that someone give me a negative review in which they enlighten me to errors I have made or provide ideas which would make the story better. The second time around I would be on the alert to keep from making the same mistakes. Just remember that nutritious food isn't always sweet.
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Post by TPArchie » 28 Nov 2015, 11:16

robert eggleton wrote:will I become so consumed with marketing that I neglect writing?
One fear I have is that my strong compulsion to write will dissipate.

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Post by moderntimes » 28 Nov 2015, 14:29

First of all, TP, your urge to write will actually be engendered by writing -- it feeds on itself -- and you find new things to write about and new things to say which will even surprise the writer. So the process is regenerative. I've now written 3 novels, 4th in progress, well over 100 book reviews, and I'm champing at the bit.

And laura, please take what DAT says to heart and don't forget it --- that a negative review (assuming it's not snarky but is well meant and is clear in its criticism) is a BENEFIT to the writer. I'm a perfect example of this --- when I was trying to place my novel, I was receiving lots of "No" from my queries to publishers and then one senior editor told me kindly, in her rejection, "Far too much backstory. It drags the story to a halt." So I re-read my book, realized that she was spot on, and rewrote it totally, adding a lively 4-chapter addition near the front of the novel which helped the themes, and all that draggy backstory was now gone. What happened? I got signed to a 3-book professional contract, is what! So this is a real case of legit criticism benefiting the author, me.

Nobody wants criticism. But if you want to write, and if you want to write for others to read, you MUST learn to accept criticism. And yes as DAT correctly says, most of it isn't worth the non-paper it's electronically non-printed on. But that junk you cast aside -- believe me I've received this too. And savor the intelligent and well-meant criticism and learn from it.

I write modern American private eye novels. And since they've been published I've received tons of feedback, most good, some not so.

I was told that my private eye was "boring" because he didn't shoot the bad guys enough and that there were no car chases (I did have one in my 2nd novel). Duh. Apparently the reader was looking for a comic book and instead found a real mystery novel. Gimme a break. I was told that when the private eye had sex with this wild gal, it was "predatory" on both their parts and wasn't "romantic" enough. For which I was very happy, because I MEANT the sex to seem predatory, animalistic and not at all decent or civilized. In this case what had been meant as negative was actually positive because I'd accomplished my intent. Thank you miss prim critic, ha ha.

But I have received this kind of commentary (Mitch is my private eye's name): "I worry about Mitch and hope he finds himself in the next book." and "I can't wait to see what troubles Mitch will stir up for himself in the next book." and so on. These made me jump for joy. I'd created a realistic character in whom the readers had actually invested concern. Which was exactly what I'm trying to do.

So in my case, criticism has been instructive and helpful as well as encouraging. This is an example from a real person (me) whose books are being evaluated in the real world and come what may. This isn't "what if?" speculation nor is it "I heard about this review" or "I might get a bad review" -- that is all a fairy tale which any newbie writer must cast aside and plunge ahead, forewarned being forearmed.

Believe me, if you write for others to read, you will get criticism. But to write just for yourself is, as I usually say, akin to masturbation. Maybe some gratification there but not nearly the fun you'll get when your efforts are shared with others.

A writing class is a good way to learn about criticism because you'll have a chance to ask the person to explain the details. Try to accept these as lessons. If the criticism is wrongly placed, at least have the sense to know that it is, take it with a grain of salt, and toss it over your shoulder (like I did for the comic-book seeker who wanted more car chases). But that commentary which is well meant and teaches you? Accept it gladly and learn from it.

Also remember this. If you read Stephen King's bio, you'll see that he fought rejection at first, and had very little success, and was working as a janitor at the school so he could have time to write, and was about ready to cast it aside and go back to teaching, when his agent told him that he'd sold "Carrie" for (I think) a hundred grand. But until that day, he'd been criticized and rejected all along.

And on a much smaller level, I can attest that I send dozens and dozens of queries for my novels to agents and publishers, rejection after rejection, until BANG! I was signed to a 3-book professional publication contract.

Don't despair, learn to accept and deal with criticism, toss out the dumb comments and learn from the good ones. ALL writers do this, and ALL writers must develop a thick skin. It comes with the territory.
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Post by Amagine » 26 Mar 2017, 15:25

My greatest writing fear is not being able to write anymore. That would be the scariest thing to me. Writing is not only my trade but my passion. If I evet became incapable of writing, it would be just like a death to me.
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Post by robert eggleton » 15 Apr 2017, 11:58

zeldas_lullaby wrote:Robert, you're ahead of the game. My dad is a KY lawyer and he still uses an IBM Wheelwriter for all of his documents. I often do digital scanning and text conversion, then editing and formatting, for his legal briefs though. He has no concept of how to use a computer. It's total Greek to him. He is exempt from electronic filing.

Anyway, I'm pretty fearless in general. But I am always afraid I'm going to post something on this forum that's completely idiotic. That would be a first! :roll:
I worked for the WV Supreme Court from 1983 through 1997. During this period, technology took over the Court in various ways. It's hard to imagine how your father would continue to practice law without participating in this stage of evolution.

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Post by robert eggleton » 15 Apr 2017, 12:05

moderntimes wrote:robert, yours is a fascinating post so I'll comment on it at some length...

I'm 73 and have no trepidation about computers. But I've used them for years -- in my "day jobs" I wrote high level engineering & scientific programs in Fortran, then C++ for analysis of structures and chemical processes, also for search and transfer algorithms used in printed circuit and microprocessor design. I started programming in Basic using a teletype to send my programs to a Cray.

I also was quickly immersed in typewriters when I wrote copy for a newspaper. We had these big clunky Underwoods, as you describe, with maybe a 2" push before a letter was typed. In hard copy newswriting - before computers - nothing was ever erased, for legal purposes. Instead of WhiteOut, we would "XM" a passage then hit the return lever to space down the page. By "XM" I mean this -- backspace to the passage or word you want to delete, caps lock, then with 2 fingers type "XMXMXM" to cover the type. Nothing is ever erased. That was newswriting before computers.

And as you so correctly describe, I fought all the time in college to write first drafts that were reasonable and so I didn't have to retype pages if I changed or moved a paragraph or sentence in my essays or reports. Drudgery for certain.

So for me, writing on computers was a blessing. I bought a little dedicated word processor gadget, a sort of electronic typewriter, then eventually bought my first PC way back in the mid 80s. Today I've got a new HP laptop and always write directly onto it, no manual writing ever. Everything goes to the laptop and is saved. I rewrite and save those rewrites and also save the older stuff -- I may change my mind -- and then for the complete work, after painstaking proofreading and editing, my Laserjet wakes up from hibernation and out comes pages of crisp and clean copy, far better than any typewriter could ever wish.

I laughed a couple years ago, one of my sons phoned me for help on installing some software on his desktop. I gave him the proper instructions, he laughed with me, said "Hey, this is the wrong way around -- you're supposed to be asking me for help, right?" and later as the installation was running fine, he said "You're doing this off the top of your head, right? You're not looking at anything, just from memory?" which was right.

But in my career I'd been a product manager for two or three different engineering design products and had maybe 400 clients worldwide and a staff of 20 or so, programmers and support people, to work on my team. And I wrote a 2000 page engineering manual for the software product, too. So I'm very computer and science/engineering literate as well as fairly well along in English literature, history, etc. Suffice it to say that computers are a blessing, not a curse to me. No manuscript notebooks, everything goes straight from the brain into the laptop.

In my private detective novels, my PI is fairly adept with computers too, and he laughs at the old stereotype private eye, fists and pint of booze in his hip pocket. He says (and it's true) that any private investigator these days learns technology or starves -- they all are internet-smart and use database searches all the time, work w. their smartphones while out of the office, all the same modern trappings and suits of woe (to quote Hamlet) that any modern business must have.

So hey, if I at age 73 can do it, anybody can.

My fears? I wouldn't say that I have any real "fears" in my life, literary or otherwise. I've been though enough real stuff that writing creates no fears at all.

But anxiety? Sure. My "fear" if you wish to categorize it thusly, is that my submissions won't get picked up by the editor or publisher. And believe me, these are genuine areas of concern for any writer who's trying to make it these days. My short stories, novels, articles, essays, book reviews, etc? All these go out to the marketplace and I'm on constant tenterhooks (not "tenderhooks" as I've seen written, ha ha) about selling my stuff.

And with good reason. I submit a short story to seeming endless venues and keep getting polite TBNTs (thanks but no thanks) and it's necessary for me to screw my courage to the sticking place (taking Lady Macbeth's advice) and keep trying and trying and...

For me, self promotion is selling my stories or articles. They are my own self-promotion and nothing adjunct that I say to the editor or publisher will help place the material -- it stands on its own, and if the story or article isn't good enough, nothing I say would help anyway. So aside from writing a decent and literate inquiry or synopsis or query letter, self promotion is valueless compared with the actual writing itself.

Right now my new novel is being evaluated by a very well regarded mid-level mystery publisher and I'm awaiting news. That's "fear" as I might define it for my own purposes.

And you're right -- fear of rejection is tantamount to any writer. What we all must do is get over it and keep plugging away and also, keep improving our writing.
Did you have any luck getting your debut novel published? The final version of mine was released to Amazon on December 5, 2016. The Advance Review Copy was awarded two Gold Medals by major book review organizations, was named one of the best books of 2015 by a Bulgarian critic, and received twenty-six five star reviews and forty-three four star reviews by independent book review bloggers. I feel fortunate because the ARC had a major formatting error -- the italics for the internal dialogue had been left off. Unfortunately, sales suck, which is particularly sad because half of author proceeds are donated to the prevention of child maltreatment. Maybe things will pick up with the final. Let us know about your book. "Only thing we have to fear is fear itself." FDR

-- 15 Apr 2017, 13:09 --
laurasowder wrote:My greatest writing fear is that I won't be able to take the criticism. I am currently taking my first creative writing class, where we spent our classes critiquing one another's work. I have never gotten critique on my work before; I've always been too afraid to share. This is the first step in a very long process, and I am afraid my manuscripts will get destroyed. I don't want to be told that I'm awful at something that has been such a massive part of my life.
When I become concerned about criticism, I think about how Heinlein was rejected by a major book reviewer at the time -- found that he had bitten of more than he could chew in Stranger in a Strange Land. lol How off could a book critic be?

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Post by Brox » 15 Apr 2017, 12:56

I am very confident when I write in my native language because I am sure my knowledge is quite good and my texts are usually flawless. However, I am not so sure when I write in English because it is my second language, and I make grammar mistakes sometimes. I am a perfectionist by nature and will always tend to write as good as possible. Still, it may be pretty frustrating when you know that your text is not perfect.

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Post by rssllue » 15 Apr 2017, 12:57

Having an idea just peter out in the middle of writing to where there is no real place the story can go. Having to stop in the process of writing is a sad and scary thought for me.
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Post by Vivian Paschal » 09 Jun 2017, 11:47

My greatest fear is that I may never get to publish, and even if I do, I may be unable to promote it. My country is not exactly developed, so people who are so much as interested in reading ebooks tend to bother only about the already famous writers. Generally, paperbacks are the easiest to get, and even cheaper because they are usually second hand books. Local publishers for indigenous books are very difficult to get access to,unless perhaps you want to publish a textbook. And the worst part is, we focus so much on academics and paper certificates that parents do not pay enough attention to talents. So, I've tried for years, and I can't do it myself because I'm still pretty young and totally dependent on my parents. I hope to try self publishing soon if I can. If not, I'll wait till I'm independent enough to help myself. But it scares me everytime that I may grow old and never publish. And all my manuscripts may end up getting buried.

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Post by Gifty Naa Akushia » 13 Oct 2017, 01:37

My greatest writing fear is writing something that may not appeal to my target audience.

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Post by Kimberly Maya Awuah » 13 Oct 2017, 03:49

I think my greatest writing fear is that my writing will not be good enough for my readers. Due to this fear, I do not write at all and I know that is bad, but I am working on it.

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Post by Doaa Wael » 13 Oct 2017, 07:41

I think it is writing a concept that seems original to you but the idea has been unknowingly repeated in some other culture. It is also scary when you think your work is good but people don't feel this way.
Imagination Trumps Reality.

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Post by eelavahs-jay » 16 Oct 2017, 08:37

My greatest fear is writing a story no one wants to read. I think I've grown past that however. These days I'm just content writing what I want to read. One should always making writing about themself and never others or you'll end up feeling sourly inadequate.

I think I fear never formally publishing my series... Just seeing it in print between two nicely designed covers is fine by me. I don't think I'd care if no one reads it as much as I would've before. Having something to look at and say "I did that" is rewarding enough for me. I know that anyone can get that done, but I want it to be of a quality that I would read. It would be that much more satisfying :D
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