Back when I was at prep school, the headmaster wrote on my report, ‘It’s a shame he hides his light under a bushel.’ And it’s a funny thing, but although that was fifty years ago, I still haven’t brought it out. In fact, sometimes I have trouble finding it myself.
Self-promotion. Not easy. But since I set up this blog in part to do just that, here goes. (Searches beneath bushel, brings out a hesitant, flickering candle). The weekly update!
Well, I said One Green Bottle was finished, but that’s not strictly true. It’s finished enough for me to have posted it on Book Country, where chapters or whole books in various drafts can be ‘workshopped’ – i.e. writers review each other’s work.
I was wary about joining, but I’ve found it both supportive and helpful – if you trawl the discussion forum, there’s lots of great advice on all aspects of writing, from technique to marketing. And I got three good reviews and thought, ‘Wow! I can go ahead and publish!’ Then came the fourth.
At first, it hurts. All that work, only for someone to come along, screw up their nose and say, ‘Heavens, but your baby’s ugly!’ But after a couple of days, once the thoughts of murder had subsided, I realised it was the best review I could have had. Because it forced me to look at the the parts she criticised and think about how to improve them. Not all of them – there are some I’m not going to change. But others, yes, in the back of my mind I was already thinking they needed fixing.
One of the really good writers on Book Country, Carl E. Reed, puts it this way:
(1) Criticisms I agree with I act upon immediately. (Usually with a wistful sigh or pained groan: Why didn’t I catch this myself?!)
(2) Criticisms I disagree with I ignore. (Not much else to say about this category of criticism. These are the criticisms you know immediately are wrong or would cause undue violence to your work.)
(3) Criticisms I’m unsure or hesitant about I leave unresolved till another day. (In time -usually another 30-90 days – I’ll either implement these suggested criticisms or know beyond the shadow of a doubt that they’re wrong for the work in question.)
So when I get a moment, I’ll look again at my first three chapters and think about category three. In the meantime, I’m off to buy some Zippo – gotta keep that candle burning.