Writers: How to Handle a Difficult Critique


There are no secrets to success. It is the result of preparation,
 hard work, and learning from failure. Colin Powell

THE FIRST PAGE. The most important page in your entire book. A recent SCBWI Shop Talk meeting focused on the keys to a successful first page, or rather the necessary keys to the first page of your novel or nonfiction book, that will either interest an editor or agent . . . or not.

The text I took was the first page of my second book, Book Two in a middle grade mystery series. It was the best I could do at the time. Was I in for a shock when my entire attempt got kicked to the curb.

On the ride home, I felt wrung out. I allowed myself to feel this way until the garage door opened. Then I put the meeting's papers to the side and took up an enjoyable pastime to ease the tension. It worked. I had a good sleep. The next day I got to work.

This technique has served me well over the years, learned from one of my writing courses upon receiving a rejection. Of course, you're going to be upset. You can't deny those feelings, so you go with them for fifteen minutes, max. Then you either take a short break like I did, or you get back to work. If you're feeling especially low, get out any praises you've collected from editors, readers, and critiquers, and pour over them. Believe you're a good writer. Then get back to work.
 
Same could be said for successes. Gloat all you want, but keep it short. There's work to do.

Heed the Advice of the Pros
Even though it didn't seem necessary to me at first, the leader of our meeting ran through how to accept critique of your work:
  • Do not take your critique personally.
  • Separate yourself from the work.
  • Comments made do not need to be followed. Decide whether you agree with them or not before changing anything.
  • Duplicate comments need to be taken into account. If more than one person notices something, it most likely needs to be changed.
  • Give yourself a day or two before working on the comments.
For the critiquer:
  • Stay positive
  • Be respectful
  • Remember: It takes courage for a writer to share her work.
  • Remember: Someone has poured their heart and soul into their work.
Comments Gathered from the Group
The next day when I began work on my first page, the first thing I did was make a list of the comments. I have tacked it up on my bulletin board in an effort to learn from the critiquers and avoid making the same mistakes again. Interspersed are the positive along with the critiqued comments—to stay as positive as possible while restructuring my first page.
  • Has the tone of a mystery, which intrigues!
  • The two voices are very similar.
  • Save backstory for later—keep us in the action.
  • Seems like an info dump.
  • Has a Nancy Drew feel.
  • Dialogue not realistic—too formal for kids.
  • Thank you for sharing!
  • Deceptive beginning.
  • Cannot tell the difference between the two characters.
  • Likes how it starts with a question.
Am I going to allow this critique to stop me? Not by a long shot. Rather, I am filled with gratitude. I am grateful for the help. It means the difference between a failed novel and a successful one, I am convinced of that. You can bet, I’ll be coming back for more at the next critique meeting.

Illustration courtesy of : www.freevector.com

The quote courtesy of: https://www.brainyquote.com


Needlepoint that hangs on my wall


Linda Wilson, a former elementary teacher and ICL graduate, has published over 100 articles for adults and children, and six short stories for children. Her first book, a mystery/ghost story for children 7-11 years old, will be coming out in September. Currently, she is hard at work on Book Two in the series.  Follow Linda at www.lindawilsonauthor.com.









2 comments:

  1. Linda, great tips on how important it is to have your manuscript critiqued. We all think we created a masterpiece, but other eyes can tell for sure. And, they can tell you where you need to step it up.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Yes, so true. Others' viewpoints point out things we sometimes can't see. And critiquing the work of others teaches us many things, too.

    ReplyDelete

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