I have observed some really upset writers after they’ve received written or verbal suggestions about their stories. And I think most writers at least wince (I know I do) when they receive a lot of edits. But you can actually learn to see these as gifts, huge favors, and even unexpected muses instead of personal attacks on you and/or your writing. I’ve used a few famous quotes to help demonstrate my views on how to develop thicker skin by looking at critiques in a different light.
“The first draft of anything is shit.” ― Ernest Hemingway:
I would like to add to this – The second draft is readable. The third draft is better but not perfect. So negative feedback is positive. You want your novel/chapter to come back from your critique partner completely marked up. However, the first reaction to getting your pages back that looks like someone rewrote your story might be either, “I should have caught this; I’m a horrible writer.” or “This is bull. They don’t know what they’re talking about.” These responses are normal, and you’ll probably never be able to completely shut them off. Give yourself that second to pout, but then you have to get over it – you’ve been given a gift that you could never give yourself – another person’s perspective.
“Remember: when people tell you something’s wrong or doesn’t work for them, they are almost always right. When they tell you exactly what they think is wrong and how to fix it, they are almost always wrong.” ― Neil Gaiman
After you’ve read over the critique and are finished cursing, think about any notes as a whole. Mull them over. Do you agree with them?
Yes – Awesome. Do the necessary tweaks.
No? Whatever you do, never completely dismiss a suggestion. If something takes the reader out of the story, makes them stop reading to write a note, then something is wrong.
“In writing, you must kill all your darlings.” ― William Faulkner
You still don’t agree? You might be too close to your story (your baby) to be objective. Ask someone else. If they agree with the critiquer, you really have to consider deleting/changing it. This might take some time. But just keep an open mind, think about it, talk it out, and struggle with it a little bit. You might be surprised with the outcome.
If others agree with you, the critique could still be useful. Turn it into your muse, an idea for a new direction, or fill in a gap somewhere else. On one occasion, I didn’t agree with what a writer friend said about my character’s career choice. I asked several other people, and they agreed with me. But then after weeks of trying to figure out why she thought this way, I decided that my friend’s opinion would work great as the character’s father’s opinion on the same subject. This set a lot of other changes in motion too, which gave my story more depth.
Learn From Your Mistakes: (This is more for the grammar side.) If you don’t know why a critiquer/editor changed something, even something as small as a comma, ask them why they changed it, or, better yet, look it up. Guess what? Sometimes even the grammar pros make mistakes. It is really important that you take control of your story by getting involved in every aspect of your craft. Every correction is a chance to learn. And things are constantly changing, so you might have missed something.
Always Say Thank You: Thank your critiquer as soon as you receive your critique – no matter how crazy you think they are. You asked for the critique, and they used their time (The more marked up the copy the more time they took.) to do you a favor. And if they are a writer, you can always get them back when it’s your turn to critique. Mwah ha ha!
Love and Laughter,
To celebrate the paperback release of my romantic comedy, The Trouble with Snowmen, I’ve teamed up with two more Texans for a fun giveaway. One lucky winner will received a prize package worth over $80.00!
The Prize Package includes:
A Signed paperback copy of The Trouble with Snowmen:
A case of mistaken identity sets the stage for opposites to attract in Dorlana Vann’s romantic comedy. It’s all about heartbreakers (snowmen), outrageous shenanigans, fashion, séances, downtown Houston, urban cowgirls, and a little bit of that kissy/kissy stuff.
Book Tote by Studio 3B – Made with cotton and denim fabrics in bright blue and polka dots. Perfect to carry your books, laptop, e-reader, and more. Measurements: 14″ x 14 3/4″, Straps 40″ Retail Value – $35.00
Cowgirl Keychain Bag Charm by Studio 3B – This keyring charm/bag charm is made using light sage green pearl beads and cowgirl themed charms plus a snowman charm, of course! This charm ring can be clipped outside the tote as charm jewelry or used as a keychain and clipped to the outside of the bag. Retail Value – $12.00
You can visit Studio 3B’s online shop on Etsy at http://www.studio3b.etsy.com where you can find many unique purses, totes and accessories.
Studio 3B on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/studio3bcreations
Cowgirl Bracelet by SAjolie – A gorgeous dangle bracelet featuring Texas and southwest themed charms and real turquoise. Retail value $24.95
SAJolie: An eclectic fusion of Bohemian, Spiritual, Cowgirl, and Charm. https://www.etsy.com/shop/SAjolie
SAjolie on Facebook: www.facebook.com/sa.jolie.boutique
Enter the giveaway below, which is being held at GoodReads
I’m thrilled to announce that my romantic comedy, The Trouble with Snowmen, is now available in paperback. This is the first book in my Trouble with Men series, which has fun, new dating terms and concepts, outrageous shenanigans, a touch of magical realism, twists and turns, broken hearts, chemistry, fashion, seduction, food, and of course romance.
Characters move in and out of a downtown Houston multiplex – a 1920s house (some say it’s haunted) that has been renovated into four separate apartments. And my favorite trope “opposites attract” is the theme that also ties these books together.
The books from the Trouble with Men series are published by Soul Mate Publishing. I’m having so much fun writing this series and am super excited to share the stories. I hope you will find them fun, flirty, and entertaining.
Soon, I will announce a giveaway of the paperback plus an awesome creation by the fabulous JFay of Studio 3B.
Here are some links to the books on Amazon in case you want to mosey on over there to check them out.🙂
Love and Laughter,
This short story was originally published in the online fairy tale magazine, Enchanted Conversation . It is included in my fairy tale inspired paranormal short story collection: Supernatural Fairy Tales.
His Soul Inspiration
by Dorlana Vann
“Have you read this?” My husband, Philip, held the book of fairy tales I had bought from a used bookstore for my niece’s ninth birthday.
“Well, not that one, but I’ve read fairy tales before,” I said as I shut the door and stepped out of my heels.
He shook the hardback of nearly 500 pages. “Not like these.”
“Yeah, sure I have. ‘The Ugly duckling,’ ‘The Emperor’s New Suit,’ ‘The Little Mermaid’…”
“Right-right-right. These are them, but not like the ones I’m sure you’re thinking of. They’re not all fairy princesses and happy endings. They’re darker, full of hardship and pain and broken hearts.”
“All right,” I said. His excitement confused me because it didn’t match what I thought he was saying. “Do you think I should take it back and get Emily something else?”
“No. I mean, yes, you should get Emily something else. But no, don’t take this back.”
I scratched my head. “Are you okay?”
“I’m more than okay—I’m terrific!” He set the book down on the couch, wrapped his arms around me, and twirled us around. As he put me down, an amused smirk transformed into a wide smile and huge eyes. “The Little Mermaid!” he exclaimed.
Philip had been having a rough year, trying to find his inspiration to paint. This sudden strangeness made me queasy, and I was a little surprised that he had cracked before I had. Not that I didn’t respect his work, goals, and dreams, it’s just that I had some of my own. And working two jobs to support a starving artist had never been my plan.
He had picked up the book again and was flipping through it when I decided to go run a bubble bath.
“Syrena, here it is. I want to read this to you right fast.”
“I’m really tired. I just want to go soak in the tub.”
“Please…. This is it. This is what I need to get me out of this slump. Please, just listen and see.”
I sighed as softly as I could manage and took my place beside him on the couch. He began to read: “The Little Mermaid by Hans Christian Anderson… Far out in the ocean, where the water is as blue as the prettiest cornflower, and as clear as crystal, it is very, very deep…”
“Well, it’s definitely different than the Disney version,” I said after he had finished reading the tale. “I didn’t realize it was so sad.”
“Anything else?” He asked slowly.
I shook my head and shrugged.
“Her skin was as clear and delicate as a rose-leaf, and her eyes as blue as the deepest sea,” he quoted. “And she wrapped herself in her long, thick hair.”
“I’m sorry, Philip. I’m tired. I’m not getting what you’re getting at. Just tell me.”
“It’s you! You have to be my model.” His eyes sparkled, and he looked so happy, happier than I had seen him in a long time. I even felt a tinge of exhilaration myself. It had been awhile since he had asked me to model for him.
“Okay.” I smiled. “Mermaids are topless, right?”
He danced his eyebrows up and down. “You betcha.”
“It sounds like fun. Saturday morning, I’m all yours.”
“No, no, no. Now.” He stood up and held his hand out to me.
“Now?” I whined.
“I can’t take the chance of losing this, this feeling.”
After a few seconds of staring into his imploring but loving eyes, I agreed by taking his hand and letting him lead me to the studio/guest room/home office. A few of his paintings hung on the walls: abstracts from his college years, pencil drawings sketched when we were on vacation at the beach, and one of me when we first met. The evening really made me think of that time, when he was so vigorous and full of dreams. When his passion oozed from his fingertips, and he saw the world differently than anybody I had ever met before; he noticed colors before shapes and talked in hues and aura, like others talked current events.
It didn’t take him long to put me in position: on the floor leaning on my elbow, legs out beside me, and my hair down and draped over the front of me like a mermaid’s. I knew he was in his zone, no longer seeing me, but seeing through me and to my spirit.
“Beautiful.” He took his place behind the easel and white canvas.
Unable to see his face, only his arm as it gently followed the hand holding the paint brush, I knew not to talk, not to disturb him as he created the new, improved me. However, after what felt like hours, my mouth began to dry. I needed water. Surely, he would understand that I needed a little break—I opened my mouth to tell him, but my tongue was completely limp, and I couldn’t even swallow. The silly words from the story came to mind: “Then she cut off the mermaid’s tongue, so that she became dumb, and would never again speak or sing.”
Trying to laugh at the thought, I felt a strange pinch in the middle of my stomach. An involuntary grunt finally came from my throat, and when I realized I could make this sound, I tried to get Philip’s attention, but he didn’t hear me—too focused in his work.
I squeezed my eyes open and shut, trying to clear the buzzing that had begun in my head. And then I saw it…. waves of color beamed from me to Philip’s swooping arm. At first I thought it was the result of the light bulbs and my blinking, but it didn’t go away. It was dark outside, so there was no sun playing with the window’s glass. These streams of gold and red and blue were coming from me.
Suddenly, I felt a sharp pain run up my arm, and it couldn’t hold me up any longer. I collapsed. “…and it seemed as if a two-edged sword went through her delicate body: she fell into a swoon, and lay like one dead…” I thought Philip would soon look at me and tell me to sit up—but minutes passed, and he never glanced away from the canvas. The pain moved down to my legs and so did the beams of colorful light. “…she felt as if treading upon the points of needles or sharp knives.”
As I grew weaker, my confusion faded. It became clear that if I didn’t get Philip’s attention, I would die, which promptly turned into: if I don’t stop Philip, I will die. “Haste, then; he or you must die before sunrise.”
I pushed my torso up with wobbly arms, every muscle burning. I couldn’t feel my legs at all. “She has given us a knife: here it is, see it is very sharp. Before the sun rises you must plunge it into the heart of the prince; when the warm blood falls upon your feet… return to us to live.” I remembered the scissors on my desk behind me. I loudly grunted as I reached and grabbed them, dropping immediately back down. I lay there, time passing until I was able to pull myself by plunging the scissors into the carpet and using them as a means to move across the floor.
With each breath, my lungs tightened as if the air itself was poison. I coughed and gagged, but still Philip did not stir. Finally, I lay beside him at his easel, taking a moment to gather some strength. The hand that held the scissors ached and so did my heart at the thought of what I had to do to survive. I used the rest of my might to pull myself up, leaning on my left hand, and brought the weapon behind my head with my right.
When I shifted my view, the painting came into focus. It was complete, save for the sun. Philip dipped his brush into the yellow and orange mixture, and I examined The Little Mermaid, letting the scissors fall behind me as I marveled at her beauty. She was alive. This painting was Philip’s dream, his life’s work… his masterpiece.
Easing the brush away from the bright sun, Philip whispered, “Finished,” as I fell into soft darkness…
“…and then mounted with the other children of the air to a rosy cloud that floated through the aether.”
His Soul Inspiration is one of the stories from my fairy tale inspired paranormal short story collection: Supernatural Fairy Tales. .99 cent eBook available at Amazon.