I’ve just finished a novel and requested a proof copy. It’s had multiple iterations of proof-readers, first-readers, comments and such. The proof will go to a completely new reader or two who, no doubt, will have their own views, too. A product of my imagination will be exposed, once more, to a critical gaze and the red/pink squiggles will appear upon it.
My thoughts and writing exposed. Oh dear. A common fear.
There is a twist, however: the exposure goes both ways. As much as your thoughts are exposed by putting them into words, the critiquers thoughts are also exposed by their reaction to the words.
My experience is that many aspiring writers are concerned about exposing themselves to criticism. Perhaps it’s the fear of ‘getting it wrong’ we all have to one degree or another, especially over something that is so personal as a piece of writing. That fear of others seeing what has come from within is a feeling of exposure, nakedness in front of others, letting others see a piece of ourselves.
Sometimes it seems to paralise writers, which is a shame for a welcoming attitude towards comments is really useful. After all, readers are actually reacting to what they read with what they bring to the act of reading; they are not really reacting to the writer. I’ve written before about how I like those red and pink marks for they highlight things I will not have seen. At the end of it all, the writer (me, you) can choose to accept or ignore those comments as they wish.
What is really interesting from a writer’s viewpoints is how different people react to the same thing in what they have read: some will ‘get’ it, some won’t; some will spot a continuity error, others skim over continuity and only see story structure problems; others see grammatical or speeling (sic) mistakes, others insist on inserting false grammatical misunderstandings.
And let’s not talk about those who want to rewrite the story/book because they would not have written it that way. 🙂
The point about all of this is that those who comment also reveal a huge amount about themselves in their commenting. Are they able to be honest enough with you, an act that requires commitment and strength? What do they bring that causes scenes or the story to be reinterpreted? How much proofing, English language or grammatical knowledge do they really have?
It all comes out in their comments and, in so doing, they let on far more about themselves than they realise. About their character, understanding, comprehension, reading habits, expectations and their background. Your reviewers and proofers end up exposing themselves to you just as much as your writing exposes yourself to them.
That mutual exposure might be something to consider next time you hesitate about handing a piece of work over to someone to comment. 🙂