I have claimed the title The Critique MD, so I’m clearly an advocate of writers getting their work critiqued. I’m also an advocate of writers not getting walloped unnecessarily during the critique process.
I’m feeling particularly passionate about that second bit at the moment, as I was walloped during a critique a few months ago. In honoring my own Kindness Code, I will not give any revealing information about the feedback or who gave it, other than to say a global pronouncement was made about one of my projects based on a very short excerpt and a very wrong assumption about where the story was going. The comment tanked me emotionally, and while I have processed that aspect of the experience, I have not regained my excitement and momentum in moving that piece forward. (Yet.)
Was that walloping unnecessary? Absolutely. But not for the reason you might think.
Do I wish the person in question might have given a little more thought to the impact of such a negative, blanket pronouncement? Sure. But I can’t control that person.
No, the reason why I was walloped unnecessarily is on me. The only reason I received that particular critique was because I had broken a personal rule: Do not submit the opening pages of a book (or any excerpt from it at all) until the first draft is done.
Some writers value critiques of works in progress. Especially when they are submitting to a trusted critique group. It creates a structure that helps them churn out pages, course correct earlier, and generally improve the story faster. Which is awesome.
But for me, I have to have the rough shape of the story drafted in its entirety before I shop it around for feedback. Having a cohesive (albeit messy) whole stabilizes me during a critique process, especially when receiving particularly wackadoo negative commentaries. (Those wily stinkers!)
Had I had the whole story drafted, I’m sure I still would have been taken aback by the comment. But it wouldn’t have thrown me off course, as the course would have been done—the story drafted. And I would have known, in my bones and on the page, that the comment had no bearing on the novel.
So, I broke my own rule and an unnecessary walloping happened. Always good to get reminders that one’s rules are worthy and useful. Sheesh.
Now, am I suggesting that YOU take on my personal rule about not opening up a work for critique until the first draft is done? No. No. And triple no.
I am, however, encouraging you to stand for your preferences in the critique process. When does getting feedback help you? While you are drafting or after? And maybe the answer to that depends on if you are in a trusted critique group or not. For example, I do have exceptions to my rule above, but the situation in question where I got that comment definitely did not qualify.
If you are a newer writer just starting out, then my invitation to you is to gather data on your preferences in the critique process. There will surely be some not super fabulous situations that you will have to process. But be brave, be curious, go out and get feedback, try out different critique groups and different formats of critique groups. Write one novel getting critiqued as you are writing it. Write another one changing that up. And all the way along, pay attention to what serves you best, and then honor that.
And when you screw up like I did and not honor it, then bop yourself on the head, write a little blog post about it, and carry on.
You’ve got this! (And so do I. 🙂 )
Onward in kindness,
Christine Carron, The Critique MD
Look for news coming soon about The Critique MD’s first live webinar course:
A Whole-Brain Approach to Giving and Receiving Critiques.