Everyone’s a Critic

I’ve taken a step back from the book to write the blurb, synopsis and gain some perspective on the story itself before taking comments and diving back in with a flurry of writing. But I was thinking about something Sonal said–not to put you on the spot, my dear–about this one class she had, full of business majors. It was a writing class and the prof was attempting to get the students to talk about their work, analyze it–you know, critique and then revise. According to Sonal, it didn’t really work out.

Which kind of made me feel bad for just throwing y’all into the deep end with this book. I know not everyone took writing classes–specifically fiction classes. Nor does everyone read fiction and a whole book in your lap is a weighty thing. Not to mention that it’s been my dream since I was a little girl to have a book published…

My first workshop was the Columbia University high school writing program. I think I was going into junior year. I didn’t really know what to do or even how to express my opinion on a piece of literature. I wasn’t analytical. We all had to be taught how to critique. If you don’t like something, can you identify what you don’t like about it? Even if it’s not your taste, can you see potential in it? Be constructive. I’ve gotten used to workshop classes. Obviously, praise is better than criticism, but even criticism can be interesting because at least someone’s talking about it. I’m not the most opinionated person in the world. Often, I think that the world would work better with less opinions floating around and more dictators, but when it comes to writing…it’s obviously my thing ’cause I could talk about it all damn day.

Today, I asked Snowflake (I totally mean to put the spotlight on you…but you like that, don’t you?) what she thought of The Time Traveler’s Wife. I keep meaning to pick it up. Haven’t gotten around to it. Here’s what she said:

How did I like the book? That is a loaded question. I’ve been giving this a lot of thought and wondering if I just read it at a strange time in my life or if it really wasn’t my cup of tea. But considering I read “Dry” days before I read this, I’m inclined to think it was the book. Firstly, the writing was not really for me. At times everything felt rushed and anti-climatic. And I can’t for the life of me figure out why she would reveal pivotal scenes to us before they occur. I’m sure it’s a stylistic thing but for me, it took the drama away from the places it would have been most useful. Also, everybody is heralding this book as “inspiring” and “a beautiful love story” but mostly it made me very sad in the wrong kind of way. Rather than, “Wow, what a powerful and poignant love story,” I thought, “Wow, what a waste of two people’s lives.”
Now, don’t get me wrong, it’s very compelling; I stayed up way past my bedtime to finish it. I had to know how it ended… But when I turned the last page, I was shaking my head, unimpressed. It felt like a first draft that her editor hadn’t seen yet. Like no one had told her she needed to rewrite the whole end of the book. But what do I know? Read it, tell me what you think.

So why am I making you read this? Because I think it’s specific. It’s analytical. It’s critical without being petulant, like “This story was a piece of crap.” (you’d be surprised what you read in a fiction workshop…I remember the word “saccharine” being thrown around a lot about my stuff). I’ve gotten some great feedback about past scribbles (fanfiction much?) from many of you, so I hope that can continue.

Or as Jessica wrote to me about Chapter 12, Book the First:

Good chapter to get inside Gabriel’s head, but it felt a bit disjointed. You put in like 4 mini-scenes in this chapter and jumped to different places and times without any transitions, which made it a bit difficult to follow. So perhaps order some things differently or insert some transitional phrases to help the reader follow the story better? I’m sending you an e-mail with more specific suggestions.

Plus, I’m at that stage where I can go back, read it and everything is awful, the plot’s stupid, the language is off, there’s no description, the history is overtaking the romance–if, indeed, there is any romance at all in this story–and I don’t feel like there’s any emotional depth, nothing has the impact I want it to, and I don’t know how to make it better.

So, you know, riddled with self-doubt and coming off of menstrual hormones. Good times. Before, this is when I would’ve given up. Leave it as a personal best and move on. I really don’t want to do that this time.

So–give it to me. I can take it. To paraphrase David Cook, “Love it or hate it, just don’t ignore it.”

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