Friday, October 01, 2010

Taking Critique Graciously

by G.Parker

I may have mentioned before that I have a couple of children who have gotten the writing bug.  One in particular writes all the time, even when she shouldn't be.  Although, she has a problem finishing any of her stories...  
The other day she brought the first chapter of a story that she'd written several years ago for her younger sister to read through and give her thoughts on.  Her brother joined in (he's addicted to the written word as much as the rest of us, unable to resist anything that's printed) and a couple of days after her bringing the chapter over, they finally got around to discussing it.
It wasn't pretty.  It reminded me of some of my critique meetings, only we know what's coming and there are rules governing our listening and accepting the information.  My daughter immediately began defending her work, and I intervened.  I reminded her that she had asked them for their input, she needed to just listen to what they had to say.
She followed my suggestion, but she was still frustrated by the feedback.  It wasn't what she had hoped to hear.
I know the feeling, having been through many critique group meetings where they've lovingly torn my work apart.  It's not a fun feeling, but it's usually what's best for the story and the author.  It reminds me of the movie Pride and Prejudice that someone in the church made a couple of years ago involving a 'pink bible'.  The main character was meeting with a publisher, someone whom she despised no less, and he began giving his impression of her work.  She was instantly offended, defending her work, and got up and left.  Her statement that "It had been rewritten ten times" always makes me laugh.
There are some authors that continue editing and rewriting until the book has been submitted for publishing.  There are some who are never fully satisfied with their work.  And then there are those willing to let it go without it being 'perfect' because it really is never going to be.  But if there's one thing I have discovered through my years of writing, it's that just because you've rewritten something so often you are sick of it, doesn't mean you're done or it's ready to submit.  Hopefully it is, but not always.
So in case you are seeking someone's opinion on your work, I have advise for you:  Accept what they say graciously and with a grain of salt.  Get several different opinions, not just one.  It's pretty much useless if you have a family member read it because they either 1, aren't going to want to hurt your feelings, or 2, think anything you write is wonderful.
And last of all - remember that the final say is up to you.  It's still your story, so despite what anyone else says, you do have the last word. 

1 comment:

Rebecca said...

Great article!

The temptation is always great to defend your work. I have to struggle to keep my lips shut! Thankfully, once the sting of even gentle critique is past, I'm able to be much more objective and see where the critiquer is right.