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Writing Wednesday: R is for Riddle

April 20, 2011

Really I have no idea what the A-Z “Challenge” is up to today, but I thought maybe the lemmings would see the title and read it.  [Tents fingers and says, “Excellent.”]

Anyway, here’s today’s riddle:  What means everything to you and nothing to everyone else?

Wait for it…

Wait for it…

Wait for it…

Still Waiting…

Almost There…

Answer:  Your story.

That’s the damnable part of critiquing, querying, or anytime you show your story to the rest of the world.  The story means everything to you because to you it represents hours and hours (days, months, possibly even years!) of effort.  To everyone else it’s just another story.

I’ve read quite a few of other people’s stories in critique groups and such and there aren’t any I care about as much as my own stories.  It’s kind of like a mother and her children; it doesn’t matter if it’s ugly or not successful, it’s YOURS, so it’s inherently more important to you than anything else.  (Hi Mom!)

Maybe it’s because we’re solipsistic, though I think it’s just common sense.  The deepest loves and friendships are born through shared experiences.  Me and my novel have days, weeks, months of shared experiences, whereas some story I’m critting or some story that’s being queried are from a complete stranger.

I wish there was something I could do about it to numb myself, but not even a cynical jerk like me is immune.  Actually cynical jerks like me are more susceptible because we’re also terribly arrogant too.

But if you can, it’s important to keep some perspective during crits or rejections.  Just because the story means everything to you doesn’t mean it means anything to anyone else.

Now I’ll turn it over to Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch to tell us some words that begin with “R.”

Friday is a movie review that begs the question:  Who Owns What?


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  1. I agree that it’s important to offer critiques with tact because, in essence, you’re ripping apart someone’s baby. I try to balance things out by praising what’s good and offering suggestions of how to improve what’s not working.

  2. I don’t get anything critiqued any more. I know, shocking isn’t it? It’s not that I don’t value other people’s opinions. Most of the time I agree with them, even the contradictory crits. I’m good at seeing other people’s point of views. But I’d rather just keep ownership of my mistakes.

    Plus it’s so time-consuming, I’d rather get on with writing.

    • You’re always going to own your mistakes, but it helps to have another set of eyes to help find them.

  3. I don’t know if I necessarily agree with what you’re saying here. There have been several times when I’ve read someone else’s work and thought…wow…this is way better than anything I could do. And conversely, I’ve thought, wow…this is way worse than I can do. I put myself in the square middle of people who write.

    Maybe psychologically, it has to do with feelings of entitlement. “No one knows how great I am” or other such feelings. I don’t feel that way because I feel that everyone should be the same. This may come as a shocker but (as an example) I honestly don’t feel that Prince William is a better person than me. Why people shower him with so much attention is something I’ll never understand because the simple truth is…he was born? Meh…doesn’t make sense. How can someone be “born” better than me?

    Anyway…just my two cents as always.

    • I don’t care about royalty either. But we’re Americans, though a lot of Americans seem to care about it too because anymore the British royalty are like celebrities. They’re especially like reality show celebrities because they get famous for not really doing anything at all. So you could say they’re like Kim Kardashian. Though if you said that to Queen Elizabeth she’d probably sic those guys in the funny hats on you. Or James Bond would pay you a visit later to kill you with an exploding pen or something.

      Anyway, I think the point I was trying to make is that when you submit to an agent or editor, your story doesn’t mean jack to them because you aren’t anybody. If you were Prince William or Kim Kardashian they might give a shit, but you’re just some schlub, so half the battle is making them think you’re better than the other 1000 schlubs submitting queries.

  4. I guess you’re right. Yeah I missed the point on that one. I thought you were saying that when you got in a critique group that you automatically thought you were better than everyone and wondered if there were others that thought the same as you.

    I been messin’ with this lady over at this blog You should go check out the comments on her latest blog. I think she’s a TEA bagger. You have to hit the blog button up at the top left to get to the most current blog instead of the “I’m a stalker of Tahereh Mafi” confession. I thought about messing with her on that by sayin’ “You really are envious…you just don’t want to come across as a shallow woman that feels entitled to $$$$$” cause that’s all the phrase “this person is going to go far” really means. IT’s all about money, I’m sure she wasn’t thinking…”Oh yeah…this person is going to go far…as in out in the ocean on a boat or something. Yeah far…”

  5. Nicely put. I don’t have anything to add to it — except that sometimes I come across a book that’s so great it makes me feel inadequate, and those stories sometimes mean more to me than my own writing.

    On a related note: do you ever go back and read things you wrote a long time ago?

    • That’s what the Rogue Mutt Archives are for, so people (mostly me) can read all the crap I’ve written since 1994.

  6. Rejection is hard for everyone. It hurts and then you have to either move on or give up, kind of like a death in the family. I don’t think anyone needs to be harsh in a crit, no matter where the level of writing is at. A little balanced encouragement could mean more to someone than any of us knows.

  7. That’s a good point. Nobody cares if the story is yours – they just want an interesting, well-told story.

    I’m starting up a ‘Critiquing Crusaders’ program, where participants in the Second Crusade can find other writers to exchange critiques with or form critiquing circles. If you’re interested, come by The Kelworth Files to check it out!

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