Validation vs. Candor #amwriting

When I first began this writing gig, I wanted to share my work with everyone, kind of like a proud parent showing off their exceptional child. It never occurred to me that it wasn’t really ready for prime time, as they say.

The worst part was when people would point out flaws—it felt like knives cutting out my heart.

I was seeking validation that my work was good – and therefore I was good – not an honest opinion that it had promise but needed work.

Then, something occurred that showed me that my expectations were skewed: my first experience with a real editor.

That ordeal was when I truly saw my work through unbiased eyes.

My manuscript came back to me looking like a sea of red. Even though I had gone over it several times, my manuscript was rife with lazy writing habits.

  • Dropped and missing words.
  • Closed quotes sometimes missing at the beginning or end of dialogue.
  • Erratic spelling of made-up words
  • Random capitalization of made-up words
  • Lack of knowledge of grammar
  • Repetition of crutch words
  • Repetition of ideas
  • Too many descriptors
  • Too many quantifiers
  • Too much background
  • Awkward phrasing
  • Passive phrasing
  • Too many hyphenated words
  • Relying on clichés rather than creativity
  • Using too many words to say simple things
  • Using “thoughts” to dump info
  • Using dreams to dump info
  • Using flashbacks to dump info

The list of writing “wrongs” that were so carefully instilled into that manuscript went on…and on….

When I got that manuscript back, my initial gut reaction was outrage. Naively, I had expected a few comments about commas or something.

On the heels of outrage came depression. When I really looked at the first chapter, I discovered that I was a hopeless, no-talent hack. How could I have missed so many stupid mistakes? I must be the worst, the most ignorant fool out there.

After I survived the self-pity stage, I pulled up my socks, put my big girl pants on, and made it my business to make the revisions as my editor had suggested.

We grow as writers, not from mindless, sycophantic validation of our personal worthiness, but from mindful, honest critiques of our work.

My passion for writing craft evolved out of a desire to make my next book better. And with each book, I have gained in craft, and I have learned to love the experience of having an editor who is looking out for me and doing her best to make sure my work is enjoyable.

If you are new in the craft and you blithely hand your work to an experienced reader, don’t be shocked if they point out things you don’t want to hear.

This is where you must make a choice. You can write just for yourself, which is perfectly fine, and many people fall into that category. Or, you can purchase books on writing craft, attend seminars, and learn everything you can about how to make your talent readable.

Many people are not comfortable in groups, preferring a one-on-one discussion of strengths and weaknesses. If you want to know what the weaknesses are in your manuscript, but don’t want to be involved in a writing group, hire an editor. Learn to love the process of making revisions. She/he will do their best to help you realize your vision of what that novel can be.

If what you are really seeking is validation that you are worthy, don’t show that manuscript to anyone. Instead, volunteer in your community and through helping others, you will find the validation you seek.

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18 Comments

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18 responses to “Validation vs. Candor #amwriting

  1. rachelcapps

    Reblogged this on RKCAPPSCOM and commented:
    The path of the writer is filled with bindi (may be an Australian thing – lawnweed?) …

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Great post. Your list of manuscript problems is spot on. I’ve been guilty of each of them, but you and I are not alone. Every novel I’ve edited or beta read suffered from many if not most of them

    Liked by 1 person

  3. What a powerful piece! Thank you, Thank you! I particularly like the call to volunteer as a path for personal validation. How true!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Excellent and helpful article! It’s always nice to know one isn’t alone. I’m just publishing my first novel and know it’s lacking, probably in a lot of ways. Our current income is such that I /had/ to be my own editor. I’m pretty honest about grammar failings and weaknesses. But I also know I have a lot to learn and a long way to go. I love webinars and craft-focused books and I attend/read as many as I can. Knowledge is power…or so they say. I’ve found it to be true for me, anyway.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Thank you for your honesty. Re-writing, editing, and accepting critiques and re-writing again, all part of the process, one might even say the biggest part of the process. Critiques are never fun, but oh so necessary and without them it’s foolish to expect the writing to improve. Thank you again for fine advice.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Pingback: Validation vs. Candor #amwriting – by Connie Jasperson… | Chris The Story Reading Ape's Blog

  7. Hi Connie,
    With your post on writing, I’m always learning something new. I’m recognizing writing has a learning curve that takes time to master. You bring our attention to the major flaws that make or breaks the manuscript. Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. True words, Ms. Connie. True words. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I like and appreciate this post, especially for those who need to hear it.

    I think there’s an in-between need, though: the first time someone has written a script, s/he IS hoping for confirmation — for validation that they are not entirely out to lunch in thinking they can write. And I have yet to see a whole manuscript — whether short story or a whole book — that didn’t offer me a chance to find something positive to point to.

    Liked by 1 person

    • @Cynthia–I completely agree with you. The best writing group I have been involved with (for me) is a group that is really a “writer’s support” group. We do critiques, beta reads, help proof read, and offer the kind of support only friends with common interests can give. A well-rounded writing group is a real treasure. Our membership is loose, in that we have some people who come irregularly and some who are weekly attenders, but all find something they need in what the group offers.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Ruth Miranda

    and this is why I am now writing solely for myself. and finding validation on my own self aprecciation of my work.

    Liked by 1 person