Subject & Object: The Critical Eye

I want to talk a little bit about subject and object. Or rather subjective and objective.

We cling a little too hard to the former at the expense (and often complete obliteration) of the latter.

See, sometimes our work just isn’t what we think it is. It’s good. It’s worthwhile even. But, if we were to be capable of stepping right back and viewing the work from a neutral distance, we’d be able to see the flaws.

Very little work (especially of the longer variety) is perfect first time out the gate. We need to let it lie fallow, percolate, then return to it when our minds are clear and able to see our writing from that different perspective.

That’s what objectivity is, the ability to step back far enough to see imperfections. Because they will be there. They propagate in secret in the confines of closed files and notebooks, in the spaces between writing and not writing.

Novels are rife with them, long stories suffer fairly heavy attacks and even flash fiction cannot escape the trials and tribbles of continuity problems, arc issues, plot holes, character and tone inconsistencies.

But they are not our worst enemy. We are.

Most writers don’t like revising or editing. They like the flush of the first draft. They want to believe that sucker is perfect. Understandable, a lot of work goes into writing. So when it’s sent out for crit or beta, a severe crit can feel like Dante’s Inferno and a weekend away in the Hyper Cube all rolled into one.

Thing is, though, even our closest and most cherished critique buddies might miss some of the more worrying problems with a work. Because, hell, they get attached to our style too. We all become each other’s fans and objectivity can take yet further beating.

So this goes further than even that parameter. I would recommend all of us chance the eyes of a professional stranger (one who knows our genre well enough to not be sidetracked by tropes they do not recognise).

Tough though it is, allowing a stranger who is also a pro access to your work can often provide the breakthrough moment you didn’t even realise you were looking for. The one wherein truly objective eyes spot things that have warped what could be something great into something passable or okay.

I don’t know about you but I’m not a writer who wants to settle for passable or okay. I know I’m not going to be great but I think my books could be better, I think my writing could be better. I want objectivity at maximum.

This is partially why I’ve been trying the trad route for my work. I can’t afford a professional editor or book surgeon for my work but sometimes, not often but it does happen, agents or publishers see possibility, see potential, and are willing to work with a writer to draw it out.

That’s as much of a fucking jackpot as finding representation or being published as far as I’m concerned. It’s a vital step in our development as writers, especially if we’re not one who’s been lucky enough to find another writer to mentor us. Because the truth of it is, unhappy or unwelcome as it may seem, that all the writing in the world won’t improve your style if you can never be objective enough to recognise its flaws.

It is painful, but it is not so painful as spending a life writing, rejecting all but the critiques you approve, to find that you ignored the very critiques that might have transformed your work into something special. That would not only be painful, it would be a tragedy.

 

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3 thoughts on “Subject & Object: The Critical Eye

  1. Hi, Ren! Thanks for sharing the good advice. Although I currently have a small Indie publisher, I may decide to go it alone with this new project that I am working on when it is ready to see the light of day. We’ll see. No matter what I decide, I will definitely keep your words in mind.
    Sorry I don’t stop by as often as I would like to. See you tomorrow for #FF.

    -Jimmy

  2. Good advice that, Ren. From one who probably loves your writing a tad too much to be fully objective about it anymore.

    Yeah, never settle, don’t try for perfection, because that is where writer’s block lies, but always push for better. The point to stop pushing is when you are making it worse not better. On that note, always keep your earlier drafts. Their like save points in a RPG game. If you really screw up, you can always go back to your last save 🙂

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