Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Help me, don't hammer me

Hello, my lovelies! So, I'm at Alpha and have been getting some really incredible advice. Today, Ellen Kushner is lecturing and gave a great speech on critiquing. 
I think you can see where this is going.
I'm going to pass some of it along. It involves a hammer. I could not find a good picture of a hammer, readers. I wanted one that sparkled and was possibly quite pink. Instead, I found this. 
Yeah. You're welcome. 
(I understand, though. The pink would have been much better.)
We're talking about how critique is not a time to show off. I've seen it -- I bet you have too. People try to show off, show that they are Very Awesome At Fixing Stories. Yet, instead of fixing, they just berate the writer and then the write goes into Emo Corner of Shame -- and, quite possibly, stops writing.
So. The point of critiquing?
That would be to help. 
Not to hammer.
(Even if the hammer is purple or pink or sparkly.)
As Ellen Kushner put it, "As a writer, when you critique someone else, you need to think ‘what do they need from me’ not ‘what can I do to them'".
The thing is -- as Ms. Kushner pointed out -- you take a first draft to a friend when you can't take it any further alone. You don't take a first draft to a friend so that they can be all UNICORNS AND SPARKLES AND DRAGONS OMG THIS IS AWESOME. You take it to them so that they can say 'Hey, I love the unicorns, and I thought the sparkles were really innovative, but I am not connecting with the dragons. They just aren't quite ugly enough."
And then you realize that, hey, your dragons look like this--
and you need some more fangs to get them here.
(And then you laugh, because the dragon does not stand a chance. It's totally gonna be purified and made to sparkle.)
She also pointed out that you learn more from critiquing than you do just from writing your own stories. You need to analyze, need to look at what works and what doesn't. First drafts are allowed to suck. They're sometimes supposed to suck. So you don't need someone meanly telling you what sucks, but instead how to improve and turn it from sucking to awesome.
♥ ~Welcome To My World~ ♥
We're going to pretend that my five hours of sleep are not starting to hit.
Just -- go look at the puppy. Or read Ellen Kushner's book. Or, hey -- go check out a friend's story. Pull out the carving tools and start playing with them, and just let the hammer alone.
That is all. More later.


Ellen Kushner said...

Sammi, you are my Official Boswell! Thank you so much for writing stuff down as I hurtled down the slopes of rhetoric & Wise Advice here and on Twitter: http://twitter.com/#!/SammiSpeaks

Plus, I love the guy with the hammer!

Sam said...

I enjoyed it! :D Thank you so, so much for the lectures. Seriously, it was incredible. I learned so much, especially on the character building.

-coughs- I was quite fond of him as well. :P