Happy Monday, All! Today marks the second week of my blog tour and I’m excited to announce that 3 fanfriggintastic authors have been kind enough to host me today!
But in the meanwhile, let’s talk about an issue I’m sure all writers have dealt with: criticism.
I’ve been seeing a lot of requests for critique partners and beta readers online lately, but I’ve been hesitant to volunteer because you never know how some folks are going to react to criticism.
I’ll give you an example:
Back in the day (way back, before Facebook), I took a creative writing course. In this particular class, there was a student who was very vocal about the “mistakes “in other people’s writing. In fact, prior to reading her work, I thought she was some creative writing guru because she was so knowledgeable about the craft of writing (translation: she nitpicked our poor manuscripts within an inch of their lives, and she wasn’t always so nice about it). So when it was time for us to read her manuscript, I sort of assumed that her work would be…well, perfect.
But everything that glitters ain’t gold. When I took that manuscript home, I was shocked. I don’t like to disparage people’s work (because, hey: we’re all God’s children), but honey, you talk about the biggest mess you ever wanted to see! I’m talking characters who were so unbelievable you wanted to toss the manuscript out the window (and I’m sure several of my classmates probably did), scenes that made me laugh out loud (and they weren’t supposed to be funny), and the ending? Let’s just call it the plot twist from hell. Now, did I tell her this in my critique? Of course not! I mean, I love keeping it real just as much as the next gal, but mama ain’t raised no fool. You never know how some folk are going to react to criticism and I would hate to really “let somebody have it” in a critique session and then walk outside and find them waiting. By my car. In a hoody. Holding a baseball bat.
But I digress.
As you can imagine, some people in the class (probably remembering how mean she’d been with their critiques) really let ole girl have it. And what ensued was a blood bath like I had never seen. She became completely belligerent despite the fact that, in the past, she’d critiqued the work of her fellow authors with such vecerosity (I just made that word up. It means “exceedingly crass, even for an asshole”). Anyhoo, I sat back in my chair, cringing, and when it was finally my turn to offer my thoughts, I really tried to be positive with my critique. But others were brutally honest, and the person got so upset she eventually started crying. Do I say all of this to celebrate the blood bath that occurred that day? No. I say let this be a lesson to us all: critique unto others as you would have them critique unto you.
I know this is an extreme example, but it’s one of the reasons why I don’t always volunteer to beta read: some people might take the criticism personally. Letting other people read your work can be nerve-wracking, but if someone is kind enough to give you feedback on your writing, here are a few things not to do:
- Get defensive.
- Say: “But it really happened!” Doesn’t matter if your story made the front page of the paper. If it doesn’t ring true on the page, people won’t buy it.
- Say: “Well, you’re all just a bunch of idiots and aren’t intelligent/hip/socially aware enough to ‘get’ what I’m doing here.” Listen, someone actually took the time to read your story and just because you don’t like what they say doesn’t mean you have to berate them. Don’t agree with the criticism? Say thank you anyway and keep it moving.
- Cry. Please don’t! We’ll hand you a handkerchief but it won’t change how we feel about the manuscript (really, it won’t). Besides, if you think your critique partners are harsh, wait until you’re published and reviewers get a hold of your novel. It takes tough skin to be an author!
As authors, we have to learn to accept criticism and separate ourselves from the things that we write, so I want you to repeat after me: “I (insert your name) fully recognize that a critique of my novel is not a critique of me as a person.”
I’ll say it again for those of you in the back who didn’t hear me: a critique of your novel is not a critique of you as a person. If someone takes the time to give you feedback on your novel, be grateful. Even if you don’t agree with everything they say, there’s a chance that there’s something in the feedback that can help to make your story better. After all, if you didn’t want people’s opinions, you wouldn’t have asked for it. And if you thought your story was perfect, you wouldn’t be asking for feedback…right?
What about others? Any critique session horror stories (As an author, critiquer, or both)? I’d love to hear your thoughts!