As a writer, you’d think I’d be used to critiques by now. I’ve been in a writing fiction class, where they tore my fantasy to shreds, and I’m currently in my senior level English class, where our class is working on a publication that will be distributed to my entire town, and have been slammed by the harsh critiques I’ve been getting.
What does that do to me as a writer? In theory, as a writer, I need to analyze the critiques, edit accordingly, and brush it off like it’s a piece of fuzz on your shirt. It’s very nice in theory, but very difficult in practice. When you get copies of your work back, a story or manuscript that has been your precious word baby for a while, you get this feeling in the pit of your stomach and a feeling like someone torn your heart into tiny pieces.
Something important happens after that though. You read the edits, and eventually realize that some – if not most – are things that should be changed to make it better. That hole is still there, but starts getting smaller. Does that mean change everything they tell you to? No, it doesn’t. You have to use your discretion as the WIPs creator and figure out what is essential to the story and what can be changed. When you overcome that barrier, the hole is about the width of a pencil.
Finally, when you send that precious word baby of yours back to the editors, and it comes back with a bazillion red markups, that hole expands again, but this time not as big as the first round. As you progress forward and get critique after critique sent back and forth, you start to catch things and habits in your writing that reoccur. Things like in-depth details, or grammatical errors, or maybe that you’re a comma-happy person.
That’s the point I’m trying to tell myself, and something I’m sharing with all of you. CRITIQUES MAKE YOU A BETTER WRITER! While seeing the red pen marks of death may crush you inside, you need to remember that the reason you even get those critiques back is because the editors (whether they are fellow peers, family, friends, or even just a distant connection of someone you know) are only marking those things to make your story the best it can be. Without those marks and notes, the story would go to publication with all the little mistakes and inconsistencies you missed in personal edits. Every good author or writer needs someone who won’t be careful when critiquing and sugarcoat it in sake of your relationship.
As I’ve learned recently, I still get a little pang of pain in my heart when someone tells me my story needs “a little work”. However, the fact still remains that my goal is to be the best author I can be, and that I can write stories that others will enjoy and that makes people feel something inside. If I have bad habits in my writing style, I want them broken before my stories go to publication to give my readers the best, because that’s what they deserve.
I remind myself of that every time a critiqued story comes back to me. I take a deep breath, open it up, and keep on writing.