The other night, I found myself sifting through the mounds of critiques I received last year when I was workshopping the first chapter of CREEP. I counted, and I have a total of twenty-three very detailed, very honest assessments of the first twelve pages of my book (which, as we writers know, tend to be the most important pages). And you know what?
THEY WERE ALL COMPLETELY WRONG.
I kid, I kid. Actually, most were spot on. From pointing out voice inconsistencies to weak plot elements to questioning character motivations, I got a lot of really constructive criticism for my first chapter that I was able to apply way beyond the first twelve pages. It wasn't always easy to hear people's opinions (I can actually think of a couple of crits that were so mean, they made me wish I knew how to curse those self-righteous sons of bitches with some horrible malady), but in the end, they were right or they were wrong. Regardless of which way it went (and yep, most were right), every crit made me think long and hard about my work, even if I ended up tossing the advice in the trash.
I don't give a lot of advice on this blog, because there are far more better-qualified people for that, and what the hell do I really know? All I can tell you is what's worked for me so far: Read a lot. Write a lot. Ask for feedback. Learn from it. Talent helps. So does luck. But mostly it's about hard work.
Oh, and loving what you do. That's the most important thing of all.