Slapped in the face with a fish

Last night I went to a critique group to get feedback on one of my short stories.it’s a necessary part of the writing process. 

I found that there are different kinds of people that give feedback. Some are broader based, focusing on the general thrust of the story, selecting only the minute when it stands out.

Others are quite forensic, sometimes (and unfairly) called ‘grammar nazis’. 

There are those who are forensic on the story itself, not just the writing.

All sorts of critique. All of it is useful. And all of it gave me a Freudian vision of everyone in the group briefly taking on the image of my mother.

To be honest, outside of my work, I am not used to that level of scrutiny. As a social worker I have come to expect critical practice as a necessary norm. I berate myself for what, in retrospect, are glaring errors, but I welcome the process to ensure quality of the work. In social work, particularly child protection, the scrutiny is vital both for the writing of assessments and reports, but also for the writing of the ‘story’ (the analysis of what has actually happened to the child).

So accepting feedback in this vein is vital for my writing, but that doesn’t mean it’s painless. There were some pretty clear errors, ones that shouldn’t have happened or would have been obvious on a quick re-read. It’s a good lesson to me to undergo a process of redrafting before getting feedback, to iron out the obvious flaws.

Why didn’t I do this? Well to be honest it’s because I’m quite new to this writing malarkey. I have a broad idea of producing a story of reasonable quality, but in many respects I am flying blind. I guess I was after some validation that whatever the finer detail of the story I was on the right track in terms of writing one. It’s a confidence thing.

It’s like swimming. It’s one thing to know that you’re swimming to some capacity (by the fact that you’re not drowning), but ultimately you would need outside perspective to give feedback on your technique.

The critique session helped immensely then, not just in terms of this particular story, but also in terms of thinking about the re-writing and drafting process. There were common themes and threads of criticism that have given me a good sense of how to redraft a story in the future.

So yes there were moments it was like being slapped in the face with a fish, but the benefits are huge. It made me think, readjust. I don’t need to agree with all the comments, but I do need to use them to make me think about my writing and whether a particular story works or not.

I’m already looking forward to the rewrite.

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