Next weekend I will be teaching a couple of workshops at the So. Cal Writer's Conference held in Irvine. I love attending writers' conferences. It reminds me that there are others out there as insane as I am. It's good not to be alone.
I also will be doing critiques on five partials from writers and having to give those writers my thoughts/opinions. Sometimes that is not such an easy job. It's hard to tell someone that they need a little more work (or a lot). When I do one-on-one critiques, I have noticed there are one of two types of writers who sit down across from me at the table to go over their work--a. is the writer who is scared and nervous. I used to be this writer. I would get myself so worked up when pitching to an agent or do a read and critique with an author/agent or editor that I couldn't eat, or at times sleep the night before. I finally realized that agents, authors, editors (anyone in the business) are just people like me. They can't take away my birthday or children and they won't eat me alive. Their words at times may have bruised my ego, but I survived. Keep in mind if you are a writer going in for a critique that when someone is giving you constructive criticism (and it should be that. If someone is outright mean and nasty: ie: "What is this piece of crap you've written?" --yes, that happened to me, although the words used were a bit nastier--report them to the conference. That's totally uncalled for and the idea behind someone giving the critique is that they are there to help and guide not berate and belittle) it's only their opinion. You get the right to vote on that opinion later. Ultimately listen to what the person has to say, digest it, think about it for a day or two and then take another look at your work. You may decide that what the crtiquer (is that a word?--ha, ha and I'm a writer, anyway...) has said has merit, or you may ultimately decide that what that person has said is stupid. The beauty is you get to decide.
The second type of writer that sits down across from me at that table is the one who wants to defend everything they've written and does not really listen to what I have to say. Now, I may not know everything about writing. In fact, I know I am far from it. That's the great thing about being a writer--it's always a learning process. However, I've written fifteen manuscripts over the years and nine of them are published. Those others were my learning curve. I might be able to help give insight. If you are on the other end of a critique, just listen. If you have to defend the work, then it didn't work. However, that means it didn't work for me, or whoever is giving you the critique. If you totally disagree with a critique, give it to a handful of other people to read (not your parent, spouse, sibling, friend, or children), and get a consensus. If everyone tells you that you need to make some changes and you still don't listen, then I don't know what to tell you.
So, if you are venturing out to a conference this year and you've sent your work in for advance reads--relax. Again--remember that writing is a learning experience. We don't improve without lsitening, taking note and then moving forward. This path is a true journey. Enjoy it.