Do you really want an honest opinion?
Over the years, I’ve sensed with a few of my students that I might have hurt their feelings and/or disappointed them if I’ve been less than totally enthusiastic about what they’ve submitted to the class. I’ve always been sorry when that happens. Publishing is a tough enough business to try to break into without having to endure hurtful criticism. That said, I really try very hard to be honest in a way that won’t crush a student. Yes, I’d like to be able to rave about every student’s work, but I can’t. If their work was that wonderful, they wouldn’t be taking classes. They’d be writing and selling their work and wouldn’t need me. If they are taking the class, they probably need help. Some of them need more help than others. That’s normal. Not everyone has the same strengths . . . or weaknesses. Some do a great job with point of view, others don’t. Some have innate storytelling ability and seem to sense when and how to do something, others need help in that direction. Some have been writing for years, others are relatively new in terms of time put in. Some have great voices, others are still working on developing a voice.
I always try to point out a student’s strengths, but it’s the weaknesses in their writing that I feel I have to concentrate on. How else will they ever know the weaknesses are there? The truth is, most critique partners of unpubs either don’t recognize a weakness (because they might have it themselves) or they like you, so they don’t want to hurt your feelings. They might decide it’s not worth saying anything, especially if they’ve tried and you haven’t been receptive. And certainly you’re not going to get the kind of feedback and suggestions you need from agents and editors, not unless you are so close to publication skill and have such a fabulous book that they feel it won’t be a total waste of their time to spend it giving you detailed help. That doesn’t happen very often. Editors and agents are too swamped. They have very little time or energy to spare. So, as a teacher, I’ve tried to supply that.
Bottom line: If you take one of my classes, I hope you feel you’ve gotten what you needed from it when it’s over. However, always remember that I am just one person. I am certainly not an expert on everything. I’ve been known to be wrong once or twice in my life. ☻
What I always want for my students is for them to find the joy in writing. If publication comes along with that, so much the better. But the joy in the process is the best part. Let’s not ever forget that.