Generally, I wouldn’t consider listening when those words were spake in my direction. Why? Because people who offer free advice make it meaningless by starting the next part of the conversation with something like: me, I, my, etc.; what they would do. And proper helpful advice is not about the individual, it’s about the work.
That’s my gripe for the week: offer a review of the work, not a platitude about your life.
The work of story is hard; it takes dedication and balance and commitment (and ignoring friends and family as much as possible); it takes a tough skin (and dark, so no one sees when you flush with emotion as they pick it to pieces); it takes grit and determination.
It takes courage – to get to the point of putting words in sequences; to get the outline finished (and it works in a story sense); to get the words to tell the story the right way, with power and connection; to share the words with ‘others’ who may or may not understand the rules of comments. It has to be done.
As the person who wrote the story from idea to ‘the end’ it needs at least another eye/mind/thinker to see where the holes are, where the power points rest (when they shouldn’t), where the character grows or leans (and when they don’t and should). It takes a commitment to share the words with at least one other person who will speak the words back to the writer to help make that story the most powerful it can be.
It’s hard. I tremble each time I pass on a story (small or tall, micro or macro) for critique. But I do it to get the fresh-eye value, even if I ignore the comments (sometimes what they feel is a detriment is exactly what I wanted it to do). And there’ve been a few editors/proofreaders who sent back words with no value and no meaning – because they don’t seem to understand the structure of story.
Even if they’re trained, educated, well-read, highly recommended they can lose sight of the elements of story that absolutely must stay to make it all stand up (structure, this is – very important).
And I understand. Truly, I do. Because it took me four years, dozens of courses and books and on-line reading, to find what I needed to make that thing work. Because it takes several runs of practice (doing the work) to see it, to feel it, to know it. Craft takes a lot of practical effort before it becomes natural.
That’s what I did, thanks to a very helpful person who shared what she knew for no other reason other than she wanted me to read her work with the same eye as she read mine – and to give back the words that mean something to the power of the story, not the “I’d do it this way; this is wrong … blah blah blah.”
The comments I receive from her are not meaningless – they give me an insight into how I can make my words better, stronger, faster (yep, and learn to recognise cliché).
There you have it – give your words meaning, give your story power, share what you learn so you can get back what you give. Simple.
Copyright K. Jaeger 2017