The most recent precursor to a critique from one of my beloved critique partners was as follows:
I've attached my thoughts on "XXXX." Don't kill me!!! Or go ahead and swear at me, curse my name around your home and secretly spit in my tea...
She (I’ll call her “Kelly” because, well…that’s her name) had no reason to be nervous. She is still a beloved critique partner. Despite the fact that I have frequent opportunities to spit in Kelly's tea, I’m pleased to say I’ve refrained from any retaliation of the sort. In all honesty, if I had taken my revenge on her critique, I would have had to spit in a few teas and lattes. You see, Kelly wasn’t alone. Our other critique partners—also beloved—had pointed out similar weaknesses and flaws in my manuscript.
It stings to get harsh critiques of your writing. Especially when it’s not the first draft. But it stings less when the critiques are constructive. And honest. And it stings even less when you realize your critique partners have given you a gift: the insights to make your writing the best it can be.
While I usually wait to make changes to a manuscript following feedback (I like to let the critiques “simmer”), I was so struck by the consistency in their comments that I immediately started my next draft. Then another. Then another. I weeded carefully through their suggestions. Some were considered and dismissed. Others I’m still pondering. But the biggies—those blood red, high-in-the-air flags which all my writing partners waved in my face—those were the flaws I targeted for repair. Without honest, constructive criticism, those are flaws I may have overlooked for a while…or missed completely. A solid critique group helps writers achieve their best work (See blog from October 2014: The Importance of a Writing Community). So be strong when reading those tough-to-take critiques. Sometimes the ones that hit the deepest nerve can be the most revealing and helpful.
When it’s ready, I’ll resubmit that picture book manuscript for the third (and probably not the last) time to my critique group. While I hope their feedback is glowing, all of them have keen eyes and a solid knowledge of strong writing, so I expect—and hope—for more constructive comments. And I promise I won’t spit in their tea. (*wink*)