It seems we are never too old to learn new things about ourselves. Not long ago, I learned I make a really bad crit partner. Oh, I think I give good criticism, constructive and respectful. However, it appears I’m not so good at receiving it.
I generally have not worked with crit partners up until recently. Perhaps I should have, I don’t know. I suppose when I entered this industry, I never really dreamed anyone would read my books, and so I kept them to myself. It was only when Liquid Silver Books said “yes” to my first book that I began to realize I could do this. And it was only a few months ago that I took on a crit partnership with a few other Liquid Silver authors. For the most part, it all went really well.
And then I received “the” criticism.
I was part of the way into my current WIP, and was still struggling with a few issues when I sent out some passages to one or two people, just so I could get their overall feelings on the book. One of the crits I received really did a number on my confidence.
Now, let me say this: the author who provided the crit said nothing disrespectful. In fact, she had some fabulous points and expressed them with honesty. However, one of her points was that the heroine was completely unlikable and demonstrated few redeeming qualities.
Whoa. Back to square one.
I continued writing and revising this work, but the crit bore a hole in my head and I couldn’t let it go. I began reading between my own lines. I started to dislike my own characters, and doubted the story I needed to tell. All of a sudden, the whole thing seemed unusable. I was ready to dump it.
I had to remind myself: this is one person’s opinion. I hear people express their opinions everyday, and they don’t always jive with mine. So why would this one sting so much?
Perhaps the other author was correct and I didn’t like admitting it. After careful consideration, I set about making some improvements to the piece, and it is better. Even still, I hear the words of that crit every day in my head and worry about the story. I worry about submitting it. I worry about subsequent reviews. I worry, worry, worry.
I finally took the email with the criticism, read it one last time to learn what I could, and deleted it. I felt a lot better after that. After all, a person can only dwell on a negative thought for so long. Eventually, one has to believe and have faith in one’s talent and work.
I reread the manuscript and found passages that made me smile. I revisited my troublesome heroine, and realized there was a lot to admire in her. And I love my hero. This book will work.
So many times in life, we receive messages that we don’t want to hear or accept. That’s normal. Hearing them is one thing, but letting them go is another. At the end of the day, I remembered how I got to this spot in my life, and realized my stories have an audience. I don’t want to let that audience down. I work to craft the best book I can, and hope it floats. I’ve learned that when someone has a negative comment about my work, I need to absorb and use whatever is useful to me. After that, I say “thank you” and to allow it to drift away into the stratosphere.
Criticism can be wonderful, but we need to wear our thick skin when receiving it. After all, none of us is perfect. We can all improve on our work. I thank the author who gave me that critique. I did learn a lot about my writing from it.
However, in retrospect, I think I learned even more about myself.