Monday, April 12

Self Censorship

My in-laws are here (I'll pause to absorb the sympathy I know you're all shooting my way). They are very nice people. However, they drive me crazy. The reasons are many and various and should not be elaborated upon in a public forum - but I'm sure many of you can relate. So I have spent the last four days censoring myself.

Not an easy task! I'm extremely vocal, and equally blunt. Not having any children, I rarely need to watch what I say. But I'm 180 degrees from most of my in-laws opinions. It is fruitless to engage them in discussion on many of these issues, or argue with them about their complete lack of logic in their approach to many things, which drives me equally crazy. So I sit. Quietly. Biting - both metaphorically and in some cases physically - my lips. Luckily by Saturday night I discovered that a strong vodka tonic improves my tolerance substantially.

Thinking about my frustration led me to realize self-censorship has insidiously crept into my writing as well. Or at least, the threat of it, which I find harrowing enough. A few of my crit partners are less than enamored with one of my supporting characters in my WIP (Guys, this isn't a complaing - please keep your opinions coming!). The whole point of receiving critiques is to get feedback other than blatant self back patting. And goodness knows my partners have helped me catch some glaring characterization problems in the past, for which I am quite grateful. But over the past week, as the crits rolled in (along with more rejection letters, which decimated my confidence levels and opened me up to more doubt), they got to me. Every other time they'd complained about this character I considered it, then moved on, 100% sure of my choice in the character arc. This week I got stuck. Wondered if I should go back and redo the entire thing. Wondered if I should remove the secondary character, since my word count is inching higher than it should at this point. Stalled as I begin the next chapter where she is featured, unsure of how to progress. Why? I'd censored myself due to fear of fallout down the line.

I know better! Let the words flow. Write what you want, what you feel, and worry about it making marketing sense later. How many times have I ranted these words to other people? Doubt is a toxic emotion which only leads to a host of other problems down the line. So I'm kicking off the week (now in-law free!) with a vow the only thing I'll censor is my own doubt.


  1. I totally understand your pain. In fact, I've gone back to the old way, of not letting anybody read my work until the entire book is finished. I call this Nervous Muse Syndrome, because one half-critical word from a CP and my poor musey goes into her shell!

    And deepest sympathies with the in-laws. :)

  2. Er. Not "with" the in-laws, but with you, for putting up with them...

  3. Writing with rejection on my mind is one of the worst things in my opinion. For me, it saps my motivation and leads me to develop characters/scenes/stories that aren't true and dear to me. Yes, publishing is a goal for most authors, including me, but it didn't start out that way.

    Remember why you first started writing. I know my original goal for writing wasn't to get published. I had a story. I wanted to tell it. I had the time to write it. And I so I did. 85k words later I held my completed manuscript, full of pride. Then I sent it for critiques and had my bubble burst.

    Then came the thoughts, maybe I'm not a writer. It took a while for me to realize hey, I wrote a novel. The writing wasn't the greatest, but I did it. I didn't do it for the critters, I did it for me. Polishing the work is a bonus. Finding an agent is a bonus Publishing is a bonus. Writing a story I want to tell and read is a joy.

    Bummer about your in-laws. I censor myself also. Considering the things which still come out of my mouth, they'd never know it though. haha I do have the secret life as an erotic romance novelist though.

  4. In-laws!
    Enough said.
    Bite lip. Bite lip. Bite lip.
    Crits can either build you up, or tear you down. I've quit two mss from unthoughtful crits. There has to be a balance between constructive criticism and tearing a writer down.

  5. You shouldn't doubt yourself because someone doesn't like a character you've written. Just because someone doesn't like your character doesn't mean it's all wrong. Do you like her? Chances are you're not the only one who does. If you like her,and you think it works, leave her alone and let and keep on truckin:)

  6. Amen to what everyone else said. Not that I can DO what everyone else said, but I think you should! :-)

    In-laws--I'm lucky there. I like mine, I miss them when I don't see them for a while, but even then, I engage in some healthy lip-biting when we're together. What makes me lucky is that they do, too.

    Great post.

  7. Think I'm one of the few lucky ones: those whose in-laws aren't the spawn of...well, whoever! I love them dearly.
    I feel your pain on the put your words into action and keep going because the book is good. Really good.

  8. My in-laws live in England. =)

    I too have given up various mss due to crits. And finally said to heck with it. I work in a restaurant so I know darn well that not everyone likes the same thing. One man's world's-best-reuben is another man's it-was-okay-but-i-wouldn't-order-it-again.

    if YOU like her/him - keep on going! if you don't, make the adjustments and ....keep on going!

    simple as pie. =)


    Here's what RWA says about the scores on the GH Rules page of their website under Finalist Announcement and Return of Scores: "The top 10 percent of each category's entries (based on number of qualified entries received), with a limit of eight (nine in case of tie), will advance to the final round . . . ."

    RWA appears to use standard rounding procedures (four and below round down/five and above round up). I'm basing this on the 2009 GH stats on the website.
    Contemporary Series: Suspense/Adventure: 29 - rounded up to 3 finalists
    Regency Historical Romance: 62 - rounded down to 6 finalists
    Young Adult Romance: 46 - rounded up to 5 finalists
    (Inspirational had 40 entries, so no rounding was needed. All the other categories had over 80, so they had the cap of 8 finalists - or 9 if there was a tie.)

    So, for your friend's category to have four finalists, there would have been between 35 - 44 entrants. Since she's in the top quartile, she would be one of the top 9-11 entrants in her category. Removing 4 for those who finaled, her total score of 39.8 would place her somewhere between 5th and 11th in her category, assuming . Since the lower margin of the category is 37.8, that puts her a full two points above it, so I think it's safe to say she wasn't the lowest score in the quartile. Therefore, that would place her somewhere in the 5th to 8th (assuming minimum entries)/5th-10th spot(assuming maximum entries), which is a very good showing. My congratulations to her.

  10. I am a conservative. My daughter married a german who is verrrry liberal who believes everything should be like Germany-free everything- with taxes as high as necessary to accomplish this. We do not talk politics at my house or their house. It is so much easier to enjoy a visit that way.