As I have traveled the road from non-writer to owner of a nearly completed manuscript I have solicited and received quite a few critiques. Some came from friends, who have been wonderfully supportive but not very tough. Many of my friends believed I had created a staggering work of heartbreaking genius and then some.
Some came from professionals – agents and editors. This is the feedback I want to tell you about. Or, I should say, I want to tell you about my perceptions, and what feedback can mean to a writer.
My first two ‘professional’ critiques were from agents for 100-page partials. Around the time I received them, I was starting a new day job, so after I read through the comments and talked to the agents, I had to put everything aside for a while.
Somehow, over the next two months or so the agents’ comments morphed in my head. Morphed from, “your writing is quite good, but readers will have a hard time connecting with character x,” to “you suck, your writing sucks, you have no business putting words to paper, and you are an affront to decent people everywhere.”
So, for a few months, when people would ask me how the critiques went, I would tell them that they had been informative and useful, but not as positive as I had hoped. I was trying to be tough about the whole thing because I didn’t want to let it get me down, but I really did think that they had said almost nothing positive.
Then, about 6 months after I received those critiques I decided to review them so I could compile them with some more recent feedback. I was so surprised! They all liked my writing, a lot, and they all liked my premise. What they didn’t like was one of the characters and the way the plot unfolded in the beginning.
At that point I realized I can choose to focus on the negative (they don’t like my character! My plot is not as good as I thought it was!) or I can focus on the positive. I know how to write. I don’t always do it perfectly, and I need to work on consistency, but none of the agents or editors or my friends is stuck having to tactfully suggest that I take some remedial writing classes. So, I’m going to focus on that, and I am going to keep reminding myself that if I got this far just gutting it out, I can certainly go farther now that I have a clear understanding about what I need to do.
And, as I discussed last week, I did myself no favors when I let others tell me how to fix my book. The agents had ideas too, but now I’m wise(r). I’m going to address the problems they pointed out, but I’m going to address it on my terms. After all, it’s my book.
Next up; why sometimes telling is better than showing.