Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Critique?
Last year I received some critiques of the first chapter of a fiction work in progress. The first four critiques were pretty much what I expected. They pointed out where it was weak and made suggestions for how I could strengthen it. I appreciated that they also pointed out what I’d done right—I had captured their attention and they wanted to know what was going to happen next.
There were also differing opinions. One person thought that I’d gotten into the action too soon. Another person wanted me to skip the entire first page and start at the most suspenseful part. But I expected that too because I’d read about a very successful author who’d received a scathing critique of one of her earliest manuscripts. Later when she was offered a contract for a different one, the editor asked her if she had anything else hidden away.
To make a long story short, the same editor who had hated the first manuscript ended up helping her publish it.
Overall I found the first four critiques humbling, but helpful. And then I made the mistake of reading the fifth critique the next day while I was eating my morning cereal. I wore my freshly washed hair wrapped in a towel, and I was still in my house coat because I was planning to change into good clothes just before leaving for church.
Two and a half hours later I was still wearing the wet towel and my house coat. I’d decided to stay home.
The comments in the fifth critique had blown my straw house down.
It wasn’t just that I had been told to start over—to read: How to Write a Book for Dummies (I admit that’s not exactly what she said), but the critique had absolutely nothing good to say at all. I know, because I looked for that one redeeming comment of encouragement that would sweeten the bitter tea. Not a granule of sugar—not a drop of hope.
I knew the right thing to do was to say thank you. It was not okay to tell the person I can write well enough to have three agents request to see a full manuscript from me. Such information would have only seemed defensive (and that would have been true). And being defensive would only invite more of what I didn’t want.
So I did the right thing—I moved into a brick house.
I remembered a post I’d done on total forgiveness and decided to follow my own advice. I forgave the Big Bad Wolf and sent her a thank you note. And that same person responded to my thank you with a comment that included a teaspoon of sugar (that’s a lot of granules). She mentioned that my story idea was good, but simply needed work. Better late than never… I guess.
That afternoon I noticed a new follower on my Facebook writer page. It was someone I didn’t know. The person had also shared my blog post about total forgiveness on her own wall.
Was I ever glad I’d chosen to be the good little pig that moved into a brick house. Too often I act like I’m living in a straw hut when the big bad whatever comes along. So I decided to send out more requests for critiques. I remembered that my hope is built on nothing less than Jesus and his righteousness. Bring on the worst. I’ve got a God that can use anything that happens to me for good.
I’m not afraid of the big bad critique—anymore.
I entered several more writing contests after this incident and even placed in one. And although I didn’t win the top award, I won the grand prize of sorts because my house didn’t blow down when I read the comments by the judges. Instead, I rejoiced in the helpfulness of the gold I gleaned from more experienced writers. And I rejoiced that the agents who weren’t ready to take on my other project expressed interest in seeing it after I revised it.
In the meantime I still need to finish doing that and then have it critiqued by some big bad wolves first.
Writer’s gold cannot be gleaned
by leaving manuscripts unseen
For panning for gold requires light
to swish and swirl the dross from right
and then the traces of good are found
instead of leaving them in the ground
So do be brave and ask for advice
like true wordsmiths who love to write.
Big Bad Blessings ~ Wendy
Have you ever had your house blown down when you’ve asked for an opinion?Brave wordsmiths welcome good-willed critiques of their writing. #amwriting Click To Tweet