Wednesday, March 23, 2011

When A Critique Makes You Want To Cry

We're human, right? So a tiny (or sometimes not-so-tiny) part of us wants this from every critique of our manuscripts: "Oh my gosh. It was fantastic. I can't think of anything I would do to change it."

Would that critique improve us as writers? No.
Would it make for the absolute best finished product? Probably not. (Unless, of course, you really ARE that perfect already).
Would it make us feel good? Dang right.

But being critiqued isn't necessarily designed for "making us feel good." The whole concept is designed to help us improve our craft. My full-time critique partner has been so very helpful to me as I've mentioned time and time again. Switching manuscripts has been the tool that has improved me the most.

I didn't have a critique partner on my first novel, and now I often wish I did.

Last night I received a critique from another author of my WIP. This critique--if I'm honest--made me consider taking my current WIP to the trash bin, lighting a match and never donning the title "writer" again. These thoughts actually went through my mind: "What am I doing? Why am I spending so much time on this if I suck so much? I could definitely stay on top of laundry better if I weren't writing so much."

But then, I knew that was flawed thinking. I don't want to be a writer who only wants the good news. If things are wrong with my work, I need to address them to have a final novel I am proud of.

So, starting tomorrow--hey, I deserve at least one day of total self-loathing don't I?--I will drag myself up by the bootstraps and dive back in. I thought I was finished with revising, but I now know I am not. Wish me luck on Revisions/Take 3.

To me, having a good book is better than finishing by a certain date on the calendar. I'll get there, I know it, just probably not by April 1, like I hoped.

Please, someone give me some uplifting news... Have you ever had a hard-to-swallow critique that greatly improved your manuscript?


Bonnie R. Paulson said...

My first CP told me I had no idea what romance books were like based on my writing. Crushed me. THen I remembered - hang on, she wrote Sci-fi. Not the biggest romance reader, if you know what I mean.

I've been reading romance since I was 8. yep, 8. my mom would leave them around the house and I'd pick em up. I think I know what goes into romance. Don't crush me, encourage.

My CP does that. She makes me take a look at what works, but then also points out the things that don't. I love that! She's awesome.

Hang in there.

And I know why you write... cause you do it so well! It's a talent.

Bonnie R. Paulson said...

this looks promising!

Deborah A. said...

Oh, my first rounds of critiques on The Gifted DID make me cry. And, like you, I wallowed in self-loathing for two days (I gave myself an extra dose), and then I got back on the horse.

To be honest, though, it wasn't because my editor - who is actually my dad - was trying to create a pit of self-doubt in my soul. It was because he knew I had talent and that my work had potential. He was sanding away the rough bits, and that's always painful.

Hang in there. You're already amazing, don't forget that.

Melanie Jacobson said...

Yep, you know what I think about this. Listen to Deborah A. because that's exactly where the critique came from. (Funnily enough, I emailed you BEFORE I read this blog post and now I'm EXTRA glad I did.)

Chantele Sedgwick said...

I had a crit partner that absolutely loathed one of my main characters. She didn't like her at all and I was so upset about it. I debated shelving my book, but after stewing over it for a few days, I realized she was right. People wouldn't connect with my character, so I completely changed her whole personality. Gave her some issues and her own struggles. I love the character so much better now, and I have that crit partner to thank for it.
I still get sad getting a rough critique, but I don't let it get to me as much now. After all, they are only there to help us make our book better! :)
By the way, I'm reading your book right now! I like it! :D

Dan said...

Years ago when I was in an intensive writing class, another person in the workshop decided they didn't like me.

Every critique circle she came at me like a fighter blasting out of the corner at the sound of the bell. I was writing a fantasy novel at the time, and most of her critiques centered on my use of horses: when they ate, how much was in their packs, how long they had galloped, and their general behavior.

It bothered me at first, but then I realized that 95% of readers weren't interested in my horses' diets, and there was no need to mention every time they ate.

The critique improved my manuscript by showing that flippant details can set a reader off, so it's important to have a tight rein (pun intended) on even the mundane elements.