Taking a criticism, and letting it go.

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.

11 thoughts on “Taking a criticism, and letting it go.

  1. Rosanna … so true! What it all boils down to is your own vision, that vision that you laboured to bring to life. It’s so ironic that you wrote this piece on this day—I got a rejection e-mail this morning from an agent and, I admit, it stung. We’re a wrong fit, she wrote, and—thought I hate to admit it—I know she is right. I think my work is a little too erotic for her taste. So be it. One year ago, after getting a similar e-mail, I’d have mentally wrung my hands for days. But not today. Today, I’ll allow it to “sting” a little, but then I’m going to let it go. I’m editing the last few pages of my next book and I need to focus and get it done. As a book is nearing completion, I doubt myself, wondering if it’s as good as I hope. (Sigh) Only one way to find out.
    I really enjoyed this piece, Rosaana. Thanks for sharing. Karen Anderson

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    • My pleasure, Karen, and I’m glad it was so timely. I’m sorry to hear about the email from the agent, but it just means there’s a better agent out there, waiting for you to find her! It’s so hard to let go of a rejection in any form, but we must. I know your next book will be wonderful. You know I’m a huge fan. Thanks for visiting.

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  2. My beta reader is my crit partner. We pretty much paint each other’s manuscripts blood red. We kick, we fight, we scream sometimes (not at each other) but in the end, we realize the other has a point and we make the changes. Sometimes it’s easy and sometimes, like you said, it’s really not. I actually gave her a similar critique to the one you got lol She didn’t take it well at first. But then, she did the same to me and now we’re both rewriting our novels to make our lead characters better. =) I’m just glad we can still be friends after that LOL. Friends that can take crap as well as they can dish it are priceless. I wouldn’t give mine up for the world. I’m glad for you, that you got honest crit partners, and that it’s working for you =) A lot of people don’t even bother looking for one.

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  3. Rosanna —
    I could not live without my crit buddies and beta readers because they see things I don’t and help me to make my book better. Yes, it hurts some, but I’ve learned to let it go. In the end, the book is mine and I make the final decisions, but it helps to have constructive feedback (even when I don’t want to hear it).

    I am one of those authors who feels everyone needs a critical reader looking over their books BEFORE they submit to an agent or publisher.

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