Asking for critique is dangerous.

I'll preface this by saying the books I've released are pretty good in my opinion. Some are really good. I didn't release them until I was sure about them.

But, well, a writer can always get better.

Some examples:

1.) Editor mentions a problem in my writing, I ask him to explicate, he provides examples.


"That's exactly what I'm asking for," I tell him.

2.) I send a book to several beta-readers, and most of them think there is a specific problem. I ask the editor who didn't think there was a problem and she says,

"Well, actually, now that you mention it..."

3.) I send a book to another reader, who tells me how great I am in some parts and how stupid I am in others. "You need not to be so lazy when you can be so good."

 "It's not that I'm lazy sometimes and not lazy other times, it's that sometimes the words come...but point taken."

Overall, what I'm saying here, is after a run of getting mostly line-editings and copy-editings, I've started to ask for more structural editing, and somewhat to my surprise, I'm getting tougher critique. I've always had a few readers who were willing to point out problems, and almost all readers will venture opinions, but mostly editors and readers try to be supportive.

Turns out, if you scratch under the surface a little, these criticisms pop up. Or maybe I've just assembled a crew of readers who are willing to be more critical. 

I find myself doubting my abilities at the same time I recognize the problems.

Is this a good thing or a bad thing?

If I want to get better, I think it's a good thing. If it becomes too much and it discourages me from writing, then not so good. (If I sense this happening, I'll back off.)

Overall, I think the time has come to slow down. Now so much at the writing, because I've got a good pace going there, and I do believe that once in the throes of the fictional dream it's best to stay there, and the biggest lesson I've learned is to finish a book before I start thinking about substantive changes.

But I've also found that the more time that passes between the first draft and the second draft, the fresher it is to me, the more context I have, and the more willing I am to make changes. Sometimes the problems just become very clear and the solutions just present themselves.

For instance, it's been 3 or 4 months since I finished "Deadfall Ridge." I thought I was done with it, but I had some time--not coincidentally because I'm trying to give "Takeover" a breather--and I picked it up and the solution to a problem I'd sensed about the beginning became clear and I  killed my darling second chapter, rearranged the first 50 pages, tightened it up, and damn if it isn't a better book.

I've also recently had the example of "Snaked" where the publisher asked for rewrites or changes 3 times and was probably right in all of them. I couldn't see the problems until they pointed them out, but once I addressed them, I was forced to acknowledge the improvements.

In case you think I'm a wuss about this--most writers I know can't accept critique at all, much less this level. I think I'm pretty good about it, despite my grousing. 

"Faerylander" is probably the biggest example. I've been fiddling with this book for 5 years now, and each time I've come back to it--sometimes after years--I've improved it.

I don't know if this is the best thing to do for a beginning writer--I think actually writing and finishing books and moving on is probably the best training there is. But for someone who has now written 35 books, 15 of which are traditionally published, another 10 indy published (not done yet), I can afford to let time pass between releases.

I have a small "in" with a major publisher for a thriller, and I don't want that door to close (the door is open maybe half an inch, heh) so there is a little time constraint. I'm going to send the new version of "Deadfall Ridge" to him though I'd already sent a draft that was presented as finished.

But I'm going to put off the rewrite to "Takeover" for a few more weeks than I intended. The more time I take, the better. I can finish up "The Wyvern Riders" in the meantime.

I'm getting feedback for "Takeover" and by request the critique is probably more substantial than usual and as unpleasant as that can sometimes, as dangerous to my ego, I think it's a good thing.

For now...