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Week Five: becoming a more critical reader

Please welcome back today’s contributing editor Kristin W who tweets as @kdwald and blogs at That Unique* Weblog. If you have any questions or need any clarification on today’s topic or prompts, please feel free to begin a discussion in comments.

If you’re here just to hang out, the yeah write #68 hangout grid is open.

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Hurts so good

Everyone’s a critic. And, I’m willing to put down a dollar or two on the bet that everyone has been criticized.  It can sting either way, and neither role is comfortable. How we give and take critique bares our experience and confidence more than it exposes our ego or ability. Shows like American Idol and Project Runway force artists to face their judges and listen to responses from several different sources. It’s staged, sure. It’s all about ratings and drama and mentioning sponsors, sure. But it also comes down to one performer listening to responses from people who know a little something or other. Some people simply say “Thank you.” Others are defiant and defensive. I’m most impressed with the people who question, ask, filter the commentary—even when it is painful.

Bringing your best stuff

So what is the point? Why do people put themselves through the harsh criticism (the Paula Abduls notwithstanding)? I have to believe it’s because true artists are always hoping to sand and hone and polish and snip their way to perfection. Or, something close to perfection. And that’s how I approach reading every single post in the yeah write grids, both challenge and hangout. I am making the assumption that people who submit a post to a site for “writers who blog and bloggers who write” will always bring their very best stuff without being asked. And I’m making the assumption that those writing bloggers want to improve their skills. 

Naïve? Perhaps. Worth pissing people off? Oh, yes.  Criticism ought to be constructive, instructive, pointed: the catalyst that helps create true art. And giving feedback in a forum like yeah write is different from reviewing a book or published piece.  A review is about recommending a completed work to others. Constructive criticism is about improving the work, or future work, of the artist. Simply saying, “I hate it” is neither. It’s just unnecessary. And in my head, the same goes for simply saying “I love it.” 

Reading yeah write as a reader and a writer

The reviewer in me recommends yeah write posts to friends for the emotion or story or beauty in the words. The critic in me wants the entire piece to tighten, flourish, glow, get better. And they can always get better.  It’s why I read these yeah write posts as though they are fiction. How else could I be objective about the super-personal issues the YW folks throw-down every week? Seeing the posts as stories, not memories or life experiences, allows me to judge the work based on the guidelines for a yeah write post. It saves me from having to choose whose life gets the laurel wreath. Instead, I can judge based on how the deed is done, not how much raw emotion it brings up. 

So, as Erica mentioned yesterday, for the purposes of these weekly yeah write posts, stay true to yourself and do your best to squeeze yourself into the guidelines.  We can’t always follow the rules, but if we choose to dance a joyfully defiant cha cha outside of the guidelines, we must accept the fallout. Not all consequences are negative, you know. Just as not all criticism needs to be accepted. But consider it as it was offered: a hopeful suggestion to help you reach your very best.

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Voting on the grid is back

Those of you who’ve been faithfully participating in the summer writer’s series will be way ahead of those submitting blindly to the challenge grid once it opens during yeah write #71. Woo-hoo.

Each week, fewer and fewer submissions are getting published to the grid on the first attempt. Take your time writing, make clear the point of your story/personal essay/fiction/creative non-fiction—avoid hiding it behind cloudy innuendo, then ease into a relevant conclusion without just tacking one on. There’s no such thing as rushing to the grid anymore. You have time to perfect before submitting. Raise your hand in comments if you’ve read this.

We’re back on the challenge grid schedule of the grid opening on Tuesday, closing on Wednesday at 9 pm (or at 50 blogs, whichever happens first) and the voting starting immediately and ending Thursday at 9 pm US eastern time. The winners’ post will publish on Friday.

yeah write #68 badges

[image width=”225″ height=”225″ align=”left” lightbox=”true” caption=”You can grab this one. Click to embiggen. Then right-click and select save this image.” title=””]https://yeahwrite.me/wp-content/uploads/2012/07/yw_wwb_bww.png [/image]

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  • Click in the upper right corner of this page on the plus symbol and the hidden widget containing the button badge codes will drop
  • Copy the code of your favorite badge, then paste that code into the HTML view of the post you’re planning to submit to the grid
  • If you’re having problems accessing those, feel free to grab the one in this post. Your backlink will be yeahwrite.me/68-open-summer or yeahwrite.me/68-open-hangout

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all your story are belong to you

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  • Read the summer FAQ page for other details: the grid is being moderated and if you’re missing an element outlined in the summer FAQ, your post will not be published on the grid
  • Let the prompt lead you, but do not include the prompt in any way in your post, not at the beginning as an intro, not at the end as a footnote. If you reference the prompt in your post, your post will not be published on the grid
  • Remember: no more than 500 words. If your post exceeds 500 words, yup, you guessed it—no publish for you
  • If the prompt takes you from thunderstorms to watching TV at your grandma’s house to how much you love Pat Sajak to the oldest person you’ve ever kissed, we want that story the furthest away in your imagination from the original prompt. Let your imagination loose
  • Keep your writing style! Do you tell stories with humor? Prose? Verse? Photos? Illustrations? Keep doing that. We’ll read Shakespearean drama on our own time
  • Cut away at everything unnecessary to your story
  • Don’t forget to badge your post
  • The grid now opens on Tuesdays

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[divider_header_h3] This week’s prompts [courtesy of Tom Slatin] [/divider_header_h3]

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  • Well, who says you can’t judge a book by its cover?
  • Describe a time you felt alone.
  • List your bad habits and/or addictions and how you have tried to rid yourself of them.

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If you’re just here to hangout, click here for the yeah write #68 hangout grid. The yeah write #68 summer challenge grid is open…