I’ve seen a lot of authors struggle for years to get their books out into the world, and something that many of them have in common, is the unwillingness to accept critiques. There are a million reasons under the sun to keep something in your story the way you want to keep it, but when dealing with critique partners or editors? Check the ego. Listen. Give each comment some serious thought – the comment could be a sign of a completely different issue with your book. And you’re not going to move your writing forward by arguing.
A look at receiving critiques from reading partners and editors.
I’d like to start off by saying that only in very rare cases should your crit group do anything more than give you general story notes. I no longer ask my readers to do anything but get big picture stuff. If I want line notes, I need to pay for that stuff, or work out a trade with a pro.
- Keep emotions OUT of feedback and your acceptance of feedback. Even though, when you’re getting started, a critique or suggestion on a character or a situation in your novel, feels like a critique on your brain, it is NOT. Remove yourself from your story.
- Nod and smile. When someone says – “I don’t get why your character did X.” You make a note of that. You can tell your reader why, but don’t argue. They have an opinion. You may disagree, but keep note of your disagreement and move on. I’ve talked people through all sorts of critiques, covers, novels, short stories, blog posts… And the worst is when they ask for my opinion and then argue when I give it to them. That means they’re not going to take my suggestion (WHICH IS FINE), but it also means that the crit was pointless for both of us. A waste of my time and theirs.
- Ask questions. And remember, the more specific you are, the better feedback you’ll get. When I disagree with something a reader says, instead of arguing my point, I ask questions AROUND that, which gives me insight into their thoughts.
- Don’t send out your writing if all you want is for people to tell you how awesome you are. You’re wasting their time if you’re not willing to really listen to their critique. If you do need that ego-stroke, be up front 😉 And obviously, when you’ve hired an editor, expect your project to bleed with notes.
- Sometimes seemingly big problems can be solved with simple things, and some seemingly simple things require big fixes. Keep that in mind as you ponder the notes and comments.
- If you’re confused about things your reader has told you, ask for a phone chat–sometimes talking things out make you understand better WHERE their notes come from. If you’re confused by a note from your editor, ASK. If you come back with a retort or an argument, you’re not going to make your project better, you’re just going to create an argument.
- The longer I write, the bigger believer I am in this – if you don’t have one lightbulb moment after another while reading your critique notes, don’t jump back in to your MS. You won’t be able to really see what needs to be done. You will do a patch job of a revision, and that’s not good enough.
- WAIT FOR IT (all of you who started singing, I love you). Wait for inspiration (if you can). Wait for the changes to feel good. Wait for every decision from every character to feel natural to the story that you want to tell.
- ALWAYS TELL YOUR READERS AND EDITORS THANK YOU!!! I don’t care if you don’t use one thing they suggest. Their time is worth your thanks.
So, there you have it. Check the ego when revising. Don’t argue. Ponder. Consider. Move forward.