Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Lessons from a Critique

Critique. It is that dreaded word for writers. You mean someone is going to point out all my flaws in my work? Someone’s going to tell me there is no chance of ever putting this out into the world because it is just like everything else in the market? Yes, that’s part of it, but stop the nail biting right now. Let’s break this down and take one step at a time.
The first critique I ever had was a group of my peers. And yes, this can be just as nerve-racking, especially if you are eight years old and a group of your peers is a class of third graders who have no problem stating their thoughts to whoever will listen. Once again, this was part of the revision process that my teacher designed for me. On this day, however, my teacher was not there. A substitute carried out the plans for the critique, making the whole thing even more stressful. Because remember, I was eight, and hated to read in front of the class. But these were my words. I loved them; my teacher loved them. Everyone else was going to love them too, right?
Never walk into a critique thinking everyone is going to love your work just because you do.
I remember reading in front of the class and listening to the comments. The sub did little to soften their blow. I don’t remember everything that was said that day. Only, that it was one of the hardest things I had done up until that point. One comment still stands out to me even now: “She used the word ‘he’ too much.” These might not have even been the exact words but the idea is still the same.
After a critique, you will only take with you the pieces of advice that will improve your work. You might remember how the comments made you feel but it will all be worth it.
I’ve had many critiques since that first one. I am a member of two critique groups that have changed my life and my writing. I’ve met with agents and editors who have rejected me, but in those rejections came a truth about my own work. After all is said and critiqued, stop and realize that you have just made another step in the process that is writing.
And remember, a critique is just one person’s opinion –For What It’s Worth. One person is telling you his or her thoughts. And who is to say that one person's thoughts are going to be the same as someone else?
Doesn’t seem so scary when you say it like that, now does it?

1 comment:

  1. Just in time for me to meet with my first editors and agents - yikes! I will try to remember that it's good medicine, even if I don't like it.

    Keep up the good work!