I'm not a perfect writer.
There. I admitted it. I mean, that's why I went back to school to receive my MFA in creative writing. I still have a ton to learn about my craft, and I've enjoyed my workshops and professors and recommended reading (okay, that may be a lie). Simply put, my MFA program has been very helpful...
Until I decided to make my creative thesis a contemporary YA novel.
You see, I didn't apply to one of those graduate programs that focuses on children's writing. Why? Because I didn't know that writing YA was my calling until after a month or two after I started classes.
Don't get me wrong. Despite not being familiar with YA writing, both my professors and classmates have given me lots of substantive feedback. They taught me how to build characterization, how to avoid cliches--to push myself to be a better writer.
But recently (like last week), one of my "older" classmates read a chapter in which one of my teen protagonists used curse words and had sex. She went on to not offer constructive criticism--only to tell me that not all teens do these sort of things and I'd be ostracizing my readers who were actually "good boys and girls." Oh, and she went on to tell me that her teenagers never engaged in these activities, so why was I so obsessed with making my characters unlikeable?
How did I react? I laughed. Then I got pissed. Then I tweeted about it. Then my tweeps made me laugh again (you guys rock, by the way).
And now? I'd like to thank my lovely classmate. You see, once my novels hit bookshelves (notice how I didn't say "if"--I'm feeling bold today), this is the type of feedback that I'll probably get from many parents. Why are my teens engaging in these wreckless behaviors? Furthermore, why am I promoting sex and drug use?
No matter what we all decide to write, it will never be universally liked--but that's what makes reading so great, right? We have choices, so if we don't want to read about teens cursing or having sex, we can always grab another book.
So kudos to you, dear classmate, for making my skin even tougher and preparing me for the real world. Have any of you experienced criticism for your writing yet? How have you handled it?
*BTW, don't forget you still have time to submit your first few lines in our First Lines Critique next Monday!! :)