“Thank you.” Nothing more, nothing less.
Are they attacking me personally?
Eh, sometimes. Face it, there are some real wheezbags who, for any number of reasons, enjoy ripping the heart out of writers – anyone seen Authonomy lately?. Maybe they were dropped on their heads at birth. Who knows? Regardless of their motives, they took the time to read your work. Don’t own those critiques, even when they’re good. It’s one opinion of many. Look beyond the sting or the joy, and see if they may have a valid point. If they do, great. If they don’t, great.
The long and short of crits is that they are designed to point out flaws that the reader felt existed. Remember, our writing doesn’t come directly from the hands of the Great Cosmic Muffin, and we all need to be critiqued and edited.
Am I ready for crits?
My philosophy is that anyone who reads crits and goes into the fetal position and cries while sucking on a pound of chocolate may not be ready to put their work out there. The only time you’re allowed to drink heavily, eat pounds of chocolate, and cry is when you’re writing your book and when you get your edits back from your editor. Everyone else is navel lint and not worth expending such emotion. [Edited to add: Ok, fetal position, drinking, eating chocolate is also allowed with crits PROVIDED you understand you’re being unreasonable] …thanks, Pelo.
I remember one a friend of mine blew his stack over a tepid review from Publishers Weekly. He was ready to contact the reviewer and read him the riot act. I told him that under no circumstances would he do anything of the sort. First off, the reviewer took his time to read the book. Secondly, out of the thousands of books that come into the magazine each week, he chose his book. That’s nothing to sneeze at.
Do they have a point?
In between blowing your nose and ranting, you need to consider whether the person critiquing you has a point. It could be their delivery is rather severe, but that shouldn’t discount what they’ve said – unless they simply say, “Your writing sucks stale Twinkie cream.” Those crits should be handed to the beagle, where she will rip them to shreds and send out her buddies, The German Shepherd Hit Squad. They wear lots of leather and growl in German.
Hearing that your writing is less than NY Times bestselling stuff stings, but you need to keep your eye on your goal; writing a damn good book. How can you do that if you ignore crits because they hurt your little feelings? Buck up, mate.
Toughen that hide, baby
This is a tough, tough business, and writers need to have the skin of an alligator. Growing a tougher hide means looking at your work objectively. It means understanding that this isn’t about you, but how effectively you communicate what’s in your heart to paper. You’d think the transition would be easy, and if it were, we’d all be bestselling authors, right? Thoughts that rummage through our cerebral hard drive don’t always translate well when they hit the pages – and maybe we can’t see that.
If you’re looking for people to coddle you and tell you how mahvelous you are, then go no further than your mother. Mom always loves my work, bless her soul. I’ve considered the possibility that yes, Gertrude, I’m really that good. And then I wake up from my deep sleep and know that Mom will never tell me I suck.
Having a tough hide means looking at your writing as a business. It takes experience and gritting your teeth. It takes appreciation that you desire to be a better writer and the only way to do that is to stick your big toe into the shark-infested waters and let ‘er rip. If you don’t, how will you ever know if you’re any good?
So no matter if someone told you your main character has the personality of a lima bean and your plot is as thin as shredded wheat, you smile and say “thank you.” Because maybe somewhere, deep inside the sting are some words that will turn your story into the stuff that auctions are made of.