Someday I’m going to have to learn to keep my mouth shut and my mind open. Hopefully sooner than later if I’m going to survive this journey called publishing. Right now, however, I need to eat some crow and choke down some humble pie.
A few months ago a friend asked me what I thought of a short story she’d published in an anthology. I told her I loved it (because I did), but then I went on to critique one moment in the story where the MC’s heart seemed to change too quickly. It didn’t feel believable, I’d said.
I thought I was cool for noting this—like I was some insightful professional that could improve upon her awesomeness. For the record, dear friend, I am sorry. And a bit ashamed of my audacity to think I knew what I was talking about. Thank you for your graciousness in handling that email and for continuing to talk to me since then!
*shakes head at self for cockiness and stupidity*
*takes another slice of humble pie*
Why the change of heart? I recently had my own story published in a little anthology called Christmas Wishes. I thought my story rocked (when I didn’t hate it). It’d received great feedback from my writers group. And I even had one of my crit pals walk through it with me—line by line!—to make sure every word was just right. I had too… my limit was 3,000 words (And boy did I push my story to the very limit! After much hacking away it still ended up at 2,996.)
So I submitted, the story was accepted, and that was the end. Only it wasn’t the end. Now it’s nestled away in the middle of the Christmas Wishes anthology being sold on Amazon.com for the “whole world” to read! I think I could puke.
*swallows down “abc” crow*
I read my story on my kindle. Surreal! More so than I would have imagined… it’s just a short story after all. (But it’s not “just” a short story, is it writerly friends? *takes another bite of crow*) And though I was excited, I was also scared, because as I read “Christmas Lost & Found,” I discovered my ideas to be a little half-baked, my characters embarrassingly underdeveloped, and the epic change of heart happening all too quickly. Yikers! I’d written a mess! Or at least that’s how it felt to me… a wonderful Christmas mess that my dear friends and family love… thanks guys!
And this is what I learned… I can only do so much with 3,000 words and I’m no short story mistro. I’ve realized that all we can do is give the best we have to our work (whether long or short), send it out there, hope the angry mobs with their torches and pitchforks don’t burn as at the stake, and then learn from the experience and move on.
We can’t go backward. Only forward.
My friend’s story—whatever her word limits were—is amazing, well written, and made of awesome. Yet I, the simpleton, still had to critique something. Lesson learned. Short story writing is hard and critiquing of things I don’t truly understand (or have never done!) should be left to the pros.
“L,” you are a talented writer who I can only hope to learn from and emulate. I apologize for my pride and arrogance. Good thing there’s plenty of humble pie for me to eat!
*takes another bite*
And who knows… I may even learn to like the taste of it!