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  • Thomas Gaffney

Feedback & Tears; Feedback & Tears


So, I have a few short stories written for my Fiction Workshops at SNHU. Through the course of each workshop class, I was able to get free criticism/feedback from my instructors and classmates. That helped a lot to get my stories stronger and more polished. But once all my workshops were completed, I lost that critique group.


But I still needed more short stories to complete my next collection. So I came up with three new stories, with the last one being something I was really on the fence about. Was it good? Was it crap? Could I salvage it? Was it too long? Too Short? Too crappy?


One of my published short stories was purchased by The Dread Machine (www.thedreadmachine.com). And with that acceptance, they offered to work with me to edit the story prior to publication. And working with them was phenomenal! My story (which had gone through a few school edits) came out much tighter and creepier. I was so happy with the feedback and direction I got working with them, that when I heard Tina and Monica were offering their services on a freelance basis, I decided the story I was on the fence about would be perfect to ask them to look at it.


They agreed to give me a developmental analysis. And much like the best feedback I've ever gotten, it was harsh. And I felt like my writing sucked, and I was an imposter who didn't know what he was doing. And it was perfect.


I'm going to say this (and yes this is just my opinion and you're free to disagree) but good feedback—especially on a terrible first draft—is supposed to hurt. Your first draft sucks. How do I know this? Everyone's first draft sucks. You're no exception. And if someone is critiquing a sucky first draft, do you know what they will tell you? THAT IT SUCKS. Feedback will sting. Critiques (good ones) will point out your flaws. And that's okay. If all you're looking for, is someone to blow smoke up your ass and say your first draft doesn't need editing, you will NEVER become a better writer. Never. If you use too many adverbs, too much passive voice (guilty!), and constantly describe everyone as gobsmacked—you need to be told. And it might make you cry. And that's okay. The only way to get better is to keep writing. But NOT keep writing the same mistakes over and over. That's where editors (GOOD editors) come in to slap your wrists and say, "No!"


And I got my wrists slapped. And I felt like I sucked. And I might've cried. But you know what? Looking back, that was a shit draft. Absolute shit. I want to apologize to Tina and Monica for making them read that. But I took their advice and I made a second draft. And it's longer. About 33% longer. Cause my first draft had one-dimensional characters and didn't come as full circle as I wanted in the end. And it's… better. I still think it needs work. I already have it on my to-do list as "Needs a Fourth Draft". I'm not prepared to call it "submission-ready" but it's getting there. What I think, is that it's time to see if Tina and Monica will look it over again. Do I expect more wrist-slapping about my passive voice? I do! And I expect harsh critiques about what's not working. And I will love it! Cause if it's not working, it's garbage. And why would I be upset that people are helping me remove the garbage?


If anyone is interested, you can find out more about Tina & Monica's services here: www.quasarediting.com.


Keep writing!

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