Pondering a Walloping

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


Be sure to read our Kindness Code before commenting.

Look for news coming soon about The Critique MD’s first live webinar course: 

A Whole-Brain Approach to Giving and Receiving Critiques.

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4 comments On Pondering a Walloping

  • Ahoy Doctor — Excellent points made here. I’d like to add the idea that perhaps all wallops are unnecessary. Ah, to live in a wallop-free world.

    • Christine Carron, The Critique MD

      Thanks, my friend. I agree, yet the tricky bit about walloping is that in the end, we are never quite sure how any comment no matter how well-crafted or well-intended will land. I once was in a workshop (nothing to do with writing) and the facilitator said something quite startling to me. Many participants came up to me during the break to tell me how upset *they* were, that they thought the guy never should have said such a thing to me, and “was I okay?”

      I was more than okay — it was one of the most freeing comments anyone had ever said to me. Tricky, tricky . . .

  • ouch…
    yep, being unprepared for a walloping can make for a bigger bruise…and breaking your own rule, nothing worse than creating self-karma, eh?
    I wanted to be comforting, but instead, my editor-ness is taking over. Your rule is excellent, and its foundation (I would bet) is the idea that when we are unsure of our concepts or they are unfinished in our minds, we are more vulnerable to the perceptions of others. Doubt can be created solely because we hadn’t yet closed the seams of the idea.
    I would suggest every author/writer make a conscious decision about what they want to find out about their work, when they consider putting it out for others to read. Ask yourself what you want to know and why. If you are (even subconsciously) looking for affirmation of your creative choices, your decision make be flawed and you may be more vulnerable.
    All this means is that asking for advice/critique/assessment on or of your work needs to be based on a substantial need, such as dialogue that isn’t effective, but you’re unsure why. Or, whether one plot path is better than another. Or, if a certain character reads as authentic. Have a concrete issue you wish to have considered — ask for knowledge or professional opinion.
    Walloping is always steeped in the walloper’s ego – their need to proclaim a superior position, not to support and encourage.
    I hope you blow off this recent event as the unimportant, shallow, driven by insecurity act that it truly was — get back to that story! It’s not been tainted — it’s just waiting for you, eh?

    • Christine Carron, The Critique MD

      Thanks, Marie. I appreciate your editor-ness on my behalf; I definitely was shaken at the time. But never fear, I will get back to the novel. Most of the slowdown has been caused by a quite intense consulting project. Which of course gave me more time to ponder what was said in the critique and how it landed with me. The upside of all this? More blog posts than this one have been percolating as a result.

      So in the end, double silver lining to a mini-cloud: (a) I was reminded to honor my preferences, and (b) I got a boost of inspiration for my tiny corner of the blogosphere. 🙂

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