Recently a friend posed the question on Facebook: how do I respond to someone who has asked me to critique a piece of writing that is truly awful?
The answers ranged a bit, but the basic response was: honestly.
Apparently this is a new writer, and the project in question is something she’s been working on for a few years, but if my friend’s assessment is accurate — and while we have different tastes, I absolutely respect him as a fellow writer — the thing needs a TON of work, and that means his critiques are going to be numerous. Criticism, no matter how well-stated or constructive, heaped upon a labor of love stings like hell.
Yet I would have loved it if someone had, during my early, formative days as an aspiring writer, been a lot more honest and direct and detailed in reviewing my work. When I showed my stuff to people, it was met with ample praise and encouragement. Sure, that helped me keep going, but it did nothing to improve my writing — and looking back on some of those early pieces? Holy shit, did I suck.
Were I able to shoot a message back in time to myself, I know what I would have told me: read more…a LOT more; stop writing variations and knock-offs of other people’s creations; don’t completely abandon prose because it’s harder than screenplays; seek out more information about how to write well and don’t assume you’ll figure it out on your own; don’t be afraid to abandon ideas that aren’t working out, but don’t be so quick to give up on a project because you’ve hit a rough spot.
Also? Quit working at the convenience store now.
I know that last one has nothing to do with writing, but it’s still good advice.