If you want to be a writer ...

Learn to be a good critiquer

Part one - taking it on the chin


The feedback you get on your work will help you polish it and maybe even point you in the direction of the right publisher or publication. The feedback you give will determine, to a very significant extent, the quality of the feedback you get. And to give, or to get, you need to belong to a writing workshop.

You can join an online workshop (I'm a member of the short story wing at Zoetrope Studios) or a live one (Brighton, my home city, has at least four, one of which I visit regularly). You can choose the kind where your work is reviewed by people you know, or people you don't; where you read aloud or where you don't; where reviewers work to a set template or where they don't.

Whatever you choose, workshopping your fiction teaches you one very important thing - to handle criticism like a writer, not like a squalling brat. And it teaches this in a very simple way; if you rant and rave too much, nobody will review your work.

It's incredibly important to separate your need for reassurance (we all have it, and it's fine, in its place) from your need for commentary. Friends and family are there to support and reassure the writer, other writers, editors and publishers are there to show us what we're doing wrong.

Imagine the pole vaulter who fails to clear the bar twice - would you expect their coach to tell them they're jumping great or to point out the one or two small adjustments that might get them over the bar on that third and final attempt?

This means that while your family might be leading the cheering section in the stands, your fellow writers are there to point out those things that will help you clear your hurdle - so slamming them, sulking, replying with vitriolic counter-critiques or threatening to kill yourself (yup, really) will only leave you standing alone next time, wondering what you're doing wrong, and why nobody has come out to help you this time ...


Tomorrow - Part Two: doing as you would be done by