Well, folks. It was fun while it lasted.

As you can see, not much has been happening on this blog lately.

There are several reasons for this, but I will only hit on a couple:

First: It's amazing how much can change in a couple of months--both in our personal lives and on the writing front. A couple of us have signed publishing contracts, and so the need to write, edit, market, promote HAD to take preference over this blog and the services we were providing.

Second: Running this blog, critiquing submissions, providing feedback...well, that's a LOT of dang work. We weren't getting paid for this service. We had a concept and we went with it--for free--not realizing how much time it would involve with very little (nothing) in return for our effort.

Third: Probably the biggest factor that made us come to this decision, was the fact that a good portion of the submissions we received just weren't ready. They needed more revision. We were wanting to give out reviews on AMAZING, fully complete, well edited novels. 90% of what we received didn't come close.

So we've shut it down. We've moved on.

If you liked our comments and our posts, you can check us out on our individual blogs:

Angela Scott: www.whimsywritingandreading.weebly.com or @whimsywriting on twitter or http://www.facebook.com/AngelaScottWriter

D.S. Tracy:

Kacey Mark:

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

How Do You Handle Toxic Feedback? Cry? Yell? Punch Someone?

Posted by Ready, Aim, Hook Me at 4:00 AM
I remember being a young girl, perched on a stool in the middle of my kitchen, singing along with the radio, belting out the words of the song with such passion and emotion as my mother cut my hair (she was a hairdresser back in the day and so our haircuts came free—lucky us). 

I was feeling the music all the way down to my soul. I was a singer! I could sing just as well as Crystal Gale, or so my thirteen-year-old self believed. I knew I was that good.

Then my mother, the woman I so admired, so loved, told me, “Angela, I’m so glad you took up an instrument instead of joining the school choir.”

What?! What the heck did she mean by that? Was my own mother telling me I sucked at singing? Really?

I truly believed so. At least that’s the way I took it.

And to this day, I remember that scenario clearly (my mother denies saying any such thing or that the situation even happened at all) and because of it, I have a singing complex. I still love to sing, but I don’t do it nearly as loud, nor do I sing in public places—I whisper-sing when anyone is around.  I’m super self-conscious.
The feedback I received from my own mother had a lasting impact on me that even twenty plus years later, I still feel it.

As much as writers crave feedback—good feedback, constructive feedback—every writer at some point will receive some toxic feedback that will make them want to cry, take a hammer to their laptop, and swear they’ll never, EVER write again. No matter what. You can’t make me.

And to make matters worse, that feedback was usually given by someone we admired greatly and so wanted to impress. To find out we didn’t impress them one bit can be pretty damaging and heartbreaking to our fragile writer’s ego (yes, we’re fragile, we are. We want to be tough, but it still stings—we’re human after all).
Putting ourselves out there by handing over our writing, something we’ve put our heart and soul into can be scary. Then to be told it just wasn’t good enough can really affect how we continue to look at ourselves and our writing paths. Each writer is different and each writer will take that piece of feedback and react to it differently as well. For some, it will be the end all to end all. And for others, they will use it to better themselves in an act to prove that particular feedback provider wrong.

Recently, I read a book titled, Toxic Feedback, HelpingWriters Survive and Thrive by Joni B. Cole, in which she discusses this very thing. If you have read Bird by Bird by Anne Lamont, then you will enjoy Joni B. Cole’s writing style and approach—very personable and humorous.  Because I like to use little post-it notes to mark passages or areas of a book I find useful , my copy of this book now looks like a freaking rainbow, there was so much I found valuable and worth marking. 

At some point in your writing career, someone is going to make you feel like crap. It will happen. It will. Whether it’s early in your writing—be it a teacher, professor, even your own mother, or heaven forbid, your spouse—or later, after you’ve been cultivating your writing for years—rejections from agents, publishers, or you receive a horrible review from a reader who gives you one stinkin’ star out of five—it will happen.
But in her book, Toxic Feedback, Joni goes on about how we should process that information, how to approach it. And more importantly, I feel, she discusses how WE should go about giving feedback to others who ask it from us.  Because like it or not, receiving feedback and giving feedback can be a highly emotional thing if not done correctly. It could actually be more damaging than good.

I love Joni’s definition of feedback, or what she believes the definition should be: “Any response to a writer or his work that helps him write more, write better, and be happier.” 

Wow. Isn’t that great? That’s the kind of feedback I want. Don’t you? 

And that’s the kind of feedback we should be giving, as well.

Now, don’t confuse this with being all fake and saying positive stuff about someone’s writing that is seriously lacking and needs a ton of work—that’s not what I’m saying here or Joni either. That defeats the “write better” portion of the definition above. 

It’s all about the approach. We need to be conscious of how we approach a person’s work, how we encourage them to fix those areas—spelling, character development, plot issues—without making them feel like a loser. Joni gives some great pointers in her book about how to do it correctly. We also need to look at ourselves and understand how we process and react to negative feedback as well—we need to understand the intentions. 

The cold hard truth is that we all need feedback. We do. Without it, we risk setting ourselves up for failure and humiliation. For me, I know I’d much rather have one of my critique buddies tell me I have a piece of broccoli in my teeth (embarrassing and slightly humiliating) than to be standing in front of the world, smiling like an idiot, with broccoli in my teeth, making people uncomfortable or worse yet, causing them to gag.
If you haven’t added Toxic Feedback to your writer’s library, I highly suggest you check it out. Just as important as it is to know where to place a comma, or what things to avoid in writing your first five pages, I think knowing how to give and process feedback ranks right up there with things all writers should know and be aware of.

The sooner we can come to understand negative feedback and how to utilize it to make us better writers, the sooner we will improve not only our writing but other writers writing as well. 

And don’t we all want that? 

Of course we do. 

Do you crave feedback or do you do everything in your power to avoid it? How do you handle Toxic Feedback?

6 comments:

Jen Daiker on July 20, 2011 at 5:42 AM said...

I used to be one who only liked positive feedback, but I realized I wasn't learning anything.

A few months ago I was given some harsh criticism. It seemed harsh but in reality they were kind, open-minded, and insightful. I learned so much after letting my manuscript sit for three days.

I learned who to trust. Now I'm waiting for my crit partners to go through my manuscript. I'm nervous but I know I'm nervous because they'll be honest. Sometimes honesty is the scariest. But I welcome the room to improve.

Tombstone on July 20, 2011 at 6:31 AM said...

What are you doing telling us writers we are fragile? It's not as if I go into a corner and cry every time you give me criticism Angela. Every Time.

Anyway, sometimes I like to ask more in depth questions about the criticism I receive. It helps to clarify things in my mind, as well as understand better where the critic is coming from. Sometimes the critic might think I'm arguing,
but really, I'm not. The questions help me clarify how to correct my course.

Nancy Lauzon on July 20, 2011 at 8:16 AM said...

Great blog.

Mothers have a definite impact on your early years, don't they? I remember telling my mother I couldn't decide what to be when I grew up, there were too many choices, and that I would probably like to do a lot of things. She answered: "Then you'll be a Jack of all Trades, Master of None." Boy, that stuck with me for a long time!

Nancy
Chick Dick Mysteries
http://chickdickmysteries

Marc Mattaliano on July 20, 2011 at 9:32 AM said...

I just recently looked up the book I self published last year, The Demihuman Archives, on Amazon.com to see if anyone had reviewed it or posted any ratings. The majority were sarcastic 5-star rants about the cover looking awful (because I had done it myself, long story), with only maybe one or two 1-star reviews saying the writing was bad, all of which had more than 10-20 people saying they found the review "useful."

You're right, though, I am going to take this to heart and the next book I put out, I want the cover to be interesting, compelling, and above all, well put together. If an agent takes me, a publisher snaps me up, whatever, I want to be heavily involved in that process. If I decide to go electronic and indy, I'll make sure I get one of my artist friends to help me, or hire someone online to make something that really pops.

I just hope that agents won't see my bad first cover and shy away from representing me. If they do, I always have ePublishing, I'm not afraid to go that route, as my new works are really looking great. But I'd hate to see my chance at an author career fail before having a real shot at getting off the ground, :-)

J. Thomas Ross on July 20, 2011 at 10:28 AM said...

You're not the only one who had that experience with your mother and singing. I too developed a singing complex. Still, I sang in school choirs and later in church choir. But I never got over the reluctance to sing by myself in front of anyone.

The first true feedback I got hit me hard, but I went back and reread it many times and learned to use it. The more you get, the easier it is to take and use to improve your writing. And that's what it's all about.

Kerry Gand on July 20, 2011 at 4:50 PM said...

I love feedback, and I love it early. I started my serious writing with a wonderful crit partner, and getting feedback early became part of the process for me. My 24/7 crit partner unfortunately passed away and I struggled to find other people who could be honest yet supportive.

Luckily, they weren't hard to find! The writing community has an abundance of generous and knowledgeable people willing to help another writer out. When I have occassionally run into a "bad" critiquer, it was never in a toxic way (thankfully) - usually it was just someone who did not "get" the genre at all.

I am so grateful to all the people who read and crit my work - and the more red it bleeds when I get it back the better, because I know I will learn something and improve my craft!

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