One of the basic ingredients a budding writer needs to grow is the willingness to listen to and accept constructive criticisms. Oftentimes, it is pride that gets in the way of acceptance and we must learn to deal with it.
After self-publishing my first book in 2014, I honestly thought I had arrived. It was something I had wanted all my life and to see it happen was a dream come true. I believed I had finally gotten the platform to showcase my ‘talent’ to world. Little did I know that it was just the beginning of my growth. I still had a very long way to go.
Looking back, publishing that book was an extremely necessary step in my writing journey. In as much as it was well received by friends and family, it also opened a can of worms I never saw dwelling among the words I wrote on paper. I received criticisms from different angles, some of which were constructive and others were meant to be destructive (borne out of a place of envy probably). Regardless, I took all the criticisms in good faith and even turned the destructive ones to my favour.
Let me share with you some of the critical comments. It wouldn’t be in the exact words but something of the same nature.
- “Your writing sounds immature. You need to read more books and see how it is really done. So you can come out from that shell.”
- “She’s trying to write like Robin Cook but she didn’t get it (For those who don’t know, my first book was a medical thriller).” This person never bought the book and so I cannot say for sure how this conclusion was made. I heard the comment from a third party.
- “This writing is not the kind that wins competitions. It’s not yet time for you to do such.” (This was my dad when I wanted to submit it for the 9mobile Prize for Literature. Responding to this in my mind, I was like but you let me publish it, right?) This was so painful to accept but it was the truth. It took time for me to completely accept it.
- “There were loopholes in the manner of the detective’s investigation. It could have been smarter but it’s a good start for you.” This person sat down and pointed out all the loopholes to me and I was marveled at the depth to which he analysed it.
- “You need to get a proper editor next time if you want to publish your next book. It’s very necessary.” (My father was my sole editor. He’s a jack of all trades)
- “There are inconsistencies and errors in the prose.” (He showed them to me.)
- “The front cover is not the best for the story.”
All these criticisms played their roles in shaping my writing now. It’s painful to accept, most especially, scathing remarks but just know it’s for the best. In my writing now, I constantly try not to repeat the same mistakes over again. That’s the essence of constructive criticisms. There’s this constant hunger in me to keep getting better at writing. It has taken good time and I’m not in a hurry anymore. I know where I’m heading and no matter how long it takes, I must get there.
When I compare my writing now to my first book, I really cringe. Honestly, I started feeling ashamed of it and I stopped telling people about it. I didn’t want to sell it anymore because I felt it no longer represented my current state of growth. Many times, I grappled with the idea that I had ruined my first attempt at a debut novel and I’ve also missed out on launching my career with a ‘big bang’. It always felt like this book was always going to be there to spite my renewed efforts at getting better. For example, someone would read it and decided to reject any manuscript from me.
Sharing this now, I realise I’ve been too hard on myself. Unfortunately for my critical mind, I cannot have two debut novels. That phase is done for good. “Mystery Notes’ was perfect for me five years ago. I got good reviews as well which really encouraged me. That’s the gospel truth.
Now fortunately for the part of my mind that dreams without limits, I am as sure as the sun shines that i’ll make a bigger comeback with my second novel which would touch hearts. It’s not always about winning but about making an impact. I must be proud of who I was then as much as now. If I hadn’t published it and been criticized, then I wouldn’t have journeyed to becoming who I am now.
Criticisms are invaluable, sometimes sour, spices that will always be necessary to spruce up a work of creative writing. Break the resistance and learn to allow them work in your favour.
P.S This is not a book advert. Just my candid thoughts, hoping it encourages someone. Meanwhile, anticipate my next book. I don’t know how long more but it would definitely come. I’ve already gotten encouraging feed back for the first draft. My spirit is soaring with hope.