Tag Archives: criticism

I’m Baaaacccck!

My short hiatus is over, and I am glad to be back in the game. It was a grueling two or three days that I was forced away from daily routine to write 10 pages of fiction for school. I think I would like to recant my statement that school was going to be easy. Even when we don’t meet and only have 8 assignments for the practicum, it’s still tough as balls!

It was rough trying to write 10 pages when my story is coming to a close. If I was writing a novel, I could pump out 10 pages easily. However, I am notorious for putting too much unnecessary detail in my story. This is even more important not to mess up because short stories are meant to say a lot in less words.

On the plus side, the due dates allow me to add significant length to my story without compromising my insane imagination. I feel like I benefit most from having someone give me a specific amount of writing by a certain time to avoid my chronic procrastination. Instead of wasting weeks only writing a few pages, it allows me to get more content out with a goal in mind. I think the process of having someone constantly expecting a certain amount of writing for you makes you a better writer.

It’s not going to be easy when I’m on my own with no deadline other than the imaginary goals I make for myself. This is mostly because I never follow my own due dates, but also because I don’t have someone nagging me to get it done so they can critique it. The importance of a critique fuels me to write my story in a better way than I would have. Sometimes as a writer, you begin writing a story that is more for you than for potential readers. It has those boring parts that only mean something to you personally, and the story has holes only your experiences can fill. If you know you’re going to have someone read your story, it must evolve to an universal story that can apply to more people without sacrificing the integrity of the story. It makes my writing more than a hobby if I can entertain or influence readers other than myself.

So far, I feel good about the progress I’ve made with my writing. While i wait to hear the verdict from my mentor, I’m keeping my head high. Even if she hasn’t seen a change in my writing, I know I have. I can’t make every reader happy, especially one who has been writing for so many years. The useful skills she provides are vital to my development, but the truth is simple. You’re not going to please every reader with your style. Since I’m just grasping my style and purpose, there is room to be molded. However, the fundamental aspects that make my writing unique, won’t be changed no matter how many times I’m told about it.

You see, the magic of writing is that once you have a good set of skills, creative license allows you to make decisions other writers wouldn’t make. This idea appeals most to poets who can defy normal sentence structure. Yet, fiction writers have been changing their personal format since the beginning. It makes our job truly amazing that we have the opportunity to bring our story to life exactly how we see it. Whether or not a publisher wants to sell it is a completely different post all together.

I’m off to my next assignment. Happy reading and writing!

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Academic Update: The Fears of My First Residency

Isn't this the cutest piece of truth you ever did see?

Well, so far I have tackled the residency, and I am knee deep into the first practicum of the program. All in all, I am having a wonderful time learning about the craft. It’s not that I am unhappy with education I’m getting. Instead, I am frustrated with myself for not being “as smart as I need to be” while writing. I understand and respect the need for criticism. It is the most helpful tool for professors to give to their students.

On the positive note, I have passed the dreaded Integrative Essay, my first fiction submission, and my first critical essay. I should be ecstatic that I didn’t fail, considering there are only three options: fail, pass, pass with distinction. Somehow, I can’t get over the feeling that just passing is not enough. I know, it’s a Master’s program, it’s more difficult by design. I should be proud of my accomplishments, but I’m not. Maybe it’s the perfectionist inside, striving towards the pass with distinction. Maybe I’m afraid that my writing isn’t good enough. It’s a fluke and I managed to squeeze by until now. All of these concerns are racing through my head as I read my mentor’s criticisms.

However, it is making me feel considerable more helpless about my skills. I’m not as confident in my own writing anymore because I feel like I am losing my ability to write well. The one time I am shown how to vary sentence structure, and I become paranoid about it. Are these sentences fragments? Does this comma go here? Should I end this sentence in this? All of these questions are being answered, but not correctly by my own brain. Grammar and sentence structure should not be the criticisms I’m getting. I’m a native English speaker in addition to enjoying the language. So why is this so damn hard to accomplish?

Sometimes I feel like Jack from The Shining-crazy with nothing good to show for it

Then comes the ego, when I begin comparing my flaws with the others in my group. In my mind, I’m convinced they don’t have these problems. They can’t be suffering from the same ailments as I am. When we move up to more difficult mentors, what happens when I can’t provide the pass? Will I settle for pass rather than strive to get that “with distinction” or will my writing actually improve with practice?

With all of these questions, I barely have room in my head for my writing. Hopefully, after spilling the beans on here I will have the courage to try again. I want to work harder, make myself a better writer, and show the world the ideas I have to offer. I’m just praying that these fears are normal. I’m not crazy over critical because other students have suffered like this.

What are your fears about your writing? Do you struggle with imperfection or attempting to improve your writing? How do you cope?

I know that I may be afraid of what I can and can’t write at the moment, but I will force myself to start writing again. I might take a break, read for pleasure ( I still have the rest of Stephen King’s 11/22/63 to finish), and then come back to my writing with new confidence. I just hopes my confidence doesn’t take too long to find its way back.

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Life of A Grad Student: Not So Grand

So, a few days ago I posted about my life as a graduate student and how fun it is. Well, here is the opposite side of that coin.

Today, I sent off my first assignment of at least 10 pages of fiction.  Within 24 hours, I had a response from my lovely mentor. I was anxious and excited at the same time. Every minute of our workshop time, I was eating up every word she said. The experience and the stories she told were magical. The insight she gave into the stories I wrote revolutionized the way I looked at my own work.

At the same time, I’m constantly struggling with how well my writing is being received by those in the “biz”: published authors, professionals, and teachers. I have a fear like most writers that my stories aren’t going to be good enough for people to enjoy. But that is not important at this point because I’m just starting to hone my craft and it will take a lifetime to become a good writer.

As I open the e-mail, my mentor explains that the following notes are meant to teach me things that I will be able to apply to all my writing. I sigh in relief knowing that what lies ahead are a lot of little details I don’t know about yet. I feel like I’m back in grade school learning the rules of Grammar.  I read through  13 pages of my story, watching as my mentor solved all of the problems I had in the story.

See, I have problems putting too much detail, too much information in the  story and not moving the action along enough.  And Jane Boyer, my mentor, solved the problem for me in a few paragraphs. Now this skill of being able to know what belongs in a story no doubt comes with time and practice, which I have neither. At the end of my mentor’s assessment, she gave me comforting words that although my draft was rough, it was not the end of world. It won’t be the end of the world, I’m sure, but if I can’t learn to keep those pesky unneeded details out it will be.

The hardest part about the program is the ability to grow as a writer. I know all of the things I need to write, but I don’t know if I can write them well enough. I hate that I’m afraid of my own writing, but I guess it helps me to constantly improve myself.

What do you struggle with as writer? Is it developing a character or depicting the perfect scene? What advice do you have for me struggling with putting too much detail or others with their problems?

Always remember your purpose regardless of your struggles

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