When it comes to your writing and how readers will react to it, you never really know what’s going to hit and what’s going to miss. Sometimes, you spend hours — years even — painstakingly paring and editing, rewriting and revising, only to hit a brick wall. Other times, you may whip off an inspired story and get it published on your first attempt.
Although no one has a crystal ball to predict which writings will find an audience and which will only attract the harshest critics, I have learned this much about writing: you’ve got to remain on track.
It’s important to remain focused on your writing and to move ahead. When others praise your work, don’t let it get to your head; it’s easy to agree with compliments when you should be doing everything you can to improve your work. On the other hand, when your work seems to be taking a beating, it’s important to consider the source.
A good example is TRACKS, my novel in stories. Some stories that I thought were less worthy ended up wowing my workshop readers and fellow writers while others that I’d poured more heart and soul into seemed to fall flat. Often, the comments I received did not match my expectations.
I took many of the criticisms and comments and incorporated them in revisions. Others, I considered carefully, but ended up filing away. Sometimes, the most difficult comments were the most helpful.
Earlier this year, I entered TRACKS in a novel contest referred to as the “American Idol” for writers in a New York Times article, and I’m thrilled to share that my first chapter, read and reviewed by thousands, moved on to round two! TRACKS was one of 20 semi-finalists out of more than 2,600 entries!
As a part of the contest, readers can read, rate, and comment on my opening chapters. During round one, 90 percent of the comments were encouraging and positive. Even most of the criticism was constructive and helpful.
Interestingly enough, the second chapter (which I’ve been told by other writers is a stronger story) has received more negative comments — some of them downright vicious.
But, again, one has to consider the source. The good news is that I beat out 2,580 other novelists. The bad news is that those aspiring novelists are the primary readers voting and leaving comments in round two.
The most important thing, when it comes to feedback on your writing, even as others compliment and condemn your talents, is to remain focused on the writing and to keep moving full steam ahead. As long as you remain on track, you’ll arrive.
You can learn more about TRACKS and the contest at http://www.traintracks.gather.com.
Eric D. Goodman is a full-time writer and editor. His work has been published locally, nationally, and internationally, including a story in the current issue of The Baltimore Review. Eric’s novel in stories, TRACKS, is open for voting as a semi-finalist in “American Idol” for writers.