Editing On Feedback Overload

As I might have mentioned previously, I’m in a workshop class at the moment for short fiction. It’s great, a wonderful way to refine and perfect one’s writing. But, you get MASSIVE amounts of conflicting feedback of various levels of helpfulness. This is my new-found method for cutting through that to the useful stuff.

1. Think about what you actually were trying to say, even if you didn’t know it while writing. If you are in a workshopping class, taking notes during the workshop helps with this.

2. Try to separate out the feedback from people who seem to really understand what you were doing in your story and those who obviously didn’t get it. This might be hard, and you may need a third pile for those you can’t categorize, but this is an important step.

3. Take the ones that didn’t get your story. Try not to get upset when they say stupid things. Look for things that anyone could have caught, like awkward phrasing or missing punctuation. Take the rest of it with a grain of salt. The tips from the other readers might help clarify things for this group of readers.

4. Take the ones who sort of got it and thumb through them. They might have some real nuggets, and these are the people who are close to grasping, but not quite there yet. Their suggestions, even if not in and of themselves what you need to do, can be really helpful in figuring out where to start, what’s missing, what’s not coming through.

5. Take the ones who understood your story. Their feedback will be invaluable. They’ll know what you’re doing right, and thereby they’re also the most likely to pinpoint where you’ve gone wrong. Spend a lot of time evaluating these ones, and take it to heart. THIS is your audience, remember. If they’re not getting something, the vast majority of people aren’t going to get it, either.

6. Edit. Revise. Start the whole process all over again.



Thoughts on Feminism and Misogyny

For some reason, this discussion seems to follow me everywhere these days. I know that feminism is a popular thing for women my age, and older.

First of all, I am not a feminist. I am not a misogynist. I simply believe that I should be treated as a person, regardless of anything else. I don’t cry discrimination unless I’m being discriminated against, and I don’t feel like killing off female characters for the development of male characters is any extreme anti-feminist statement.

If you expect someone to treat you a certain way, it seems to increase the likelihood that they will, in fact, treat you in that way. Like in The Perks of Being a Wallflower, “We accept the love we think we deserve.” Likewise, we expect to be treated a certain way, others then begin to think that that’s how they should treat us, regardless of whether or not we actually desire that treatment. Why, then, should I go out into the world expecting to be oppressed or discriminated against? I’ve found that by giving people the benefit of the doubt, I’ve very rarely been treated poorly for gender or ethnicity. In fact, almost all cases of this were when minority groups criticized me for not struggling with them. Why should I force myself to struggle against something that isn’t usually a problem for me? If I’m mistreated, sure, I’ll struggle, but why go looking for a fight?

This came up partly because in my writing, I’m looking into writing a story in which two female characters die and the two male characters bond over their deaths. This could easily be taken as an anti-feminist move, but I’ll explain why it doesn’t have to be.

First of all, had the characters been different, this might have been the men who died and the women bonded over the losses. But you see, these female characters could never have bonded as they are occurring to me, and so the men, who are capable of doing so, leave the story on a much happier note. Secondly, the specific commentaries and tragedies occurring are all pregnancy related.

And I do not write male pregnancies. I refuse to do it.

Just because things are done frequently doesn’t mean they should be, but just because killing off a female character for male character growth happens a lot doesn’t mean that it’s always a bad thing. Similarly, if we killed off a bunch of male characters for female character development, it wouldn’t always be right, but it wouldn’t always be wrong. If someone’s legitimately being misogynist, I have a problem with that, but I have an equal problem with people whose first instinct is that anything negative happening to female characters in somehow misogynist.

Nothing is black and white.

I have more I could rant about, but I’m sure this is going to make me unpopular enough as it is, so I’ll just finish off with the fact that not every woman feels the need to go out and make herself feel ’empowered’, and if that’s your thing, great, but don’t force it on others. People have a right to choose whatever they want for themselves.



Writing Personal Statements

Hello, there!

All right, so I’ve not been the best at updating, but I have two excellent excuses. The first, obviously, is thesis, which is going great, thanks for asking!

The second excuse is Grad School Applications, and the necessary evil of writing personal statements.

Obviously, I’m not done with it yet. The first apps are due the second week of December, but I figured i’d take a moment to share what I’ve learned about writing them.

First of all, every place has slightly different expectations, so it’s a good idea to check who wants what, and to keep them in different documents so that you don’t accidentally send something that says one school’s name to another school. That’d be a pretty big oops.

I’m being very careful to do one at at time, focusing on only the one I’m writing so I don’t get boggled and confused. I pick the school with the next due date (or rolling admission, but my one school with rolling admission strangely doesn’t want a personal statement) and then I read their expectations, contemplate the school and why I’m applying there, why I think I’m a fit, and how this particular school would help me reach my goals.

When I finish a statement, I don’t read it. I don’t edit it. I don’t even look at it on the page. I send it straight to my mother to look over, give feedback, and then when she gives me her feedback I restructure it and start in on the editing process. My mother happens to be my personal go-to person because she’s been through this with my sister and has a good eye for this sort of thing, but for you it could be a friend, professor, career services professional…. Whoever can help!