Criticism is key

Dialogue in creative writing has always been my strong point. So much so that every time I get my work critiqued, I’m usually told the dialogue is really good. But conversely, that makes me overly concerned that the parts in between are insufficient to evoke a similar reaction.

But what makes my dialogue so good? The answer I typically get is something along the lines of “it just feels real.” That’s not good enough for me, though. I honestly don’t want to be told that everything’s fine or even that it’s excellent. I yearn for criticism, not just in my writing but in my day-to-day life (but that’s another blog post). To have someone read my writing, which is already something that makes me incredibly uneasy, and have that same someone tell me that it’s just alright drives me up the wall.

I want to be told that I’m terrible and I want to be told explicitly why that is. The act of being criticized is what has brought me to this point in my career. When I’m told that I have flaws or that I’ve made mistakes, it quite literally puts me on edge to the point that the only way forward is to improve. And improve I have.

My venture in creative writing all started with an infant idea for a story that had some promise. Of course, I’ve since scrapped the idea but it’s what encouraged me to continued my education in college. When I wrote my first story for peer review, I realized just how bad I was. Naturally, in a learning environment, my peers were barred from using exclusively negative terms but it was clear that my work was not up to snuff.

By the time I graduated, I had won an award from creative writing and since then, I’ve been extremely nervous from the lack of like-minded individuals to criticize my writing. I haven’t let that stop me, obviously, but I literally need criticism whether it be negative or positive. But preferably negative.

I don’t want to tell you that positive criticism is absolutely useless, but it pretty much is. To tell me that something is really good translates to this: “Oh, so the thing that I initially thought was good, is in fact good? Great. But I want it to be better.” I know without a doubt that what I’ve written could improve, but how will I ever know that if I’m not told.

Which brings me to my favorite aspect of fiction writing: metafiction. For a piece within the realm of metafiction, it must be conscious of its artificiality and constantly bring that to the readers’ attention. Such works are often referred to as self-conscious. It’s not even that I want to explicitly include such allusions and language in my writing at all times, but I place so much value into the opinion of readers. A work that’s not in congress with its readers, in my opinion, is a work which shies away from so much potential.

Conversely, to receive negative feedback exclusively is a clear indicator that something wrong is at play. Which in turn prompts the writer to reevaluate the situation entirely. No writer actually wants to receive nothing but negative criticism. I am, of course, exaggerating. But no writer wants to receive nothing but positive feedback either. In my writing process, I frequently let my friends and family take a peek just to see how things are coming along. And I think I can boldly say that a writer who does not is missing opportunities from which to improve.

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