Back in 2009, I was once again asked to participate in what I’ve grown to think of as the “speed dating” style of workshopping—three beginning writers and three (supposedly) advanced writers locked together in a room for a couple of hours so the beginners could have their work critiqued.
I always used to do it when asked, but had become disenchanted with it for a couple of reasons, the primary one being that knowing how to calmly accept criticism, even when you disagree with it, is something that (for many) isn’t innate. It has to be learned. And unlike with lengthier workshop situations such as Clarion or Odyssey during which there’s time for trust to be earned, in these quickie critique sessions the writer often doesn’t yet know how to hear, or respond to, the message.
As I explained to Oz Whiston why I was going to pass, I added that I didn’t think anyone who wanted to submit manuscripts should be allowed to take part in the WorldCon critique process until he or she sat through a panel on “How to Respond to a Critique of Your Writing.” I said it half in jest, but as soon as the words came out of my mouth, I realized … “Uh-oh.”
That’s right. Oz asked me to go ahead and give that presentation at Anticipation, the 67th World Science Fiction Convention. Which I agreed to do. The room was packed, and the advice seemed well-received, with many audience members tracking me down later during the con to thank me. And that was that.
But lately, I’ve been thinking that some of the info in the presentation might be useful to some beginning writers who weren’t at WorldCon that year. And so I turned my slideshow into an annotated YouTube video.
I’m not entirely sure how something created to be presented to a specific small group of writers who likely hadn’t been professionally critiqued before will play with a wider audience, but since I believe there’s some valuable info here that might be helpful to more than just the people who were in Montreal, here’s a re-creation of that talk.
Though I’ve used every slide, not every spoken tangential aside is in here—after all, I talked for about 45 minutes at WorldCon, whereas in the clip you’re getting a distilled 15 minutes—but I think there’s still enough meat here that I get my point across.
Speaking of points … my wife, in her wisdom, mentioned that rather that creating this clip as a stand-alone presentation on how writers should react to criticism, I’ve instead created a historical document about a presentation I gave previously, and that perhaps it should be reconfigured and couched as, “I’ve been on both sides of this thing for years, and here are some tips on how to cope with rejection” (that is, something valuable for any writing audience) vs. “I gave a presentation a couple of years ago, and for those who missed it, here’s what I said.”
You know … she has a point. And someday, when I have the time, I may revise, expand, and perfect this presentation so it does just that. But for now, I think I’ll let it stand as is. I hope someone out there gets something out of it.