Monday, October 19, 2009

Writers know that criticism hurts. Except when it helps.

Therese Walsh's debut novel, the Last Will of Moira Leahy, is generating a lot of buzz. The Women on Writing blog has an interesting interview with her, in which I found the following gem about receiving criticism. To understand her advice in context, know that when Walsh submitted her first complete novel manuscript seven years ago, an agent she trusted advised her to do a complete rewrite, in a new genre. Walsh took the advice.

"WOW: Any advice for writers about how to decide what is helpful criticism and what is just the whim of some agent or editor?

Therese: I think it’s important to be wide open to criticism. That can be hard, because as writers who hone in on emotional truths, we can be thin-skinned
peeps. Criticism can hurt. But it’s what we need, in part, to become better writers. You have to put yourself in a Zen place to accept critique—assume that others have your story’s best interests at heart when you hear what they have to say, then think deeply about what they’ve offered you. If you’ve successfully set aside your pride, your gut will tell you if that person is right or wrong.If you’re still in doubt, bounce professional advice around with your critique group. What do they think? Pay attention if you’re hearing the same criticism from more than one source."

You can read the entire interview, and see a list of other blogs at which Walsh will be talking about her book over the next month, here. And if you're quick -- meaning if you do it today -- you can leave a comment at the WOW blog where they are giving away a copy of the book.
Walsh is also the founder of the Writer Unboxed group blog, an excellent resource on genre fiction.

1 comment:

Mary said...

Hi Lisa, Somebody has to comment on this entry!! I went to hear Terese Walsh last Saturday night at RiverRead Bookshop in Binghamton. Got into an interesting discussion after her reading (actually I missed the reading) about genre fiction, a subject that I don't know a lot about. I had never even heard of "women's fiction" as a genre. I am still not clear on the difference between "women's fiction" and "romance." Nor how one distinguishes between genre fiction and literary fiction. There was a woman, a friend of Therese's, at the reading, who runs a blog called "Risky Regencies" It is based on the writings of Jane Austin. When I protested that Jane Austin was not genre fiction, she assured me that she was. Jane Austin wrote to entertain, she said. Literary fiction is all about the writer. (I paraphrase here.) I am still confused, and I have run out of room.