Donning the Dragon Scaled Armor

(No dragons were harmed in the making of this blog post)

We are in full swing at the AQC Speculative Fiction Critique Marathon, and though the critiques are helpful, they can also sting.  It takes a great deal of courage to have the first chapter or so looked at, and give it to chance that it may or not be torn apart.  The marathon is not for the faint of heart, but then, being a writer is not either.

Each of us, as writers, need to grow some sort of thick skin or, as I like to think of it, donning the armor.  As much as we love our creations, we need to expect the worst out of the reaction of others.  To expect the worst is put on the armor and prepare for the words that will hurt the pride the most.

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It’s not always easy.  Sometimes we’ve had a rough day, or simply just can’t find our armor. (Crap, did I bring it to the cleaners again?) The rage builds up from the harsh critique and thoughts like: ‘This person doesn’t know what they’re talking about.’ Or ‘How could they say that, don’t they ever read?’ to ‘I’m horrible, I should never have put down a word of this dribble.  I can’t do this! I can never write again.’

I know, I know, that’s a bit melodramatic, but you get the point, we either get angry and defensive, or we get depressed.  When a critique hits you the wrong way you need to step back, don’t keep reading the words that are hurting you.  Move on. Do other things. Come back to it when you’ve donned your armor, those words may be the key to your improvement.

In the form of the marathon, there are a lot of people who look at my work, and not all of them have good things to say.  When I first started showing my chapters during the theme months my first reaction was not a good one.  I forgot to don the armor and I regretted it.  I couldn’t show another round of my work for the rest of the month.  I missed out on a lot of helpful critiques that could have caused growth because of my pride.

I had to step back and realize that I still have a long way to go.  Now, when I look at each crit from my fellow speculative fiction buddies, (some of them have blogs! Check out the Contributors Blogs on the left.) I look at it in a different perspective. I ask myself, why did they say that? If I do as they suggest, will it help or hurt my plot line? Am I taking away from the reading? Am I giving enough information so that they understand what’s going on? 

These people are there to help, they take their own precious time to view each chapter that they crit.  I have to say, I feel pretty honored when they take the time to look at my chapter.  As I said, I still have a long way to go.

How about you? What do you do to prepare for a critique from a crit-parner? Do you don the armor, or do you let it hurt at first, then walk away, only to go back to it with a thicker skin? We would love to hear your ideas!

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9 thoughts on “Donning the Dragon Scaled Armor

  1. LucidDreamer says:

    I know I need to wear mine! I’m way too sensitive, which is good for the writing and bad for just about everything else in this business. I have learned to be a lot tougher over the years, but anyone criticizing my “babies” (the two legged one as well as the words on paper ones) makes me shrivel up into my shell for a while. But I always crawl back out and consider the criticism to see what I can learn and how to make things better. It just takes an hour or two of (silent) whinging and winging to get over myself.
    In fact, I just received a suggestion from my wonderful crit. partner on my latest revision. If I follow the advice I have another major revision looming in front of me. Intimidating and exciting all at the same time. I’m looking upon it as an “experiment”. I’m putting the completed work on the shelf as far as queries, etc. and then I’m going to try my crit. partner’s suggestion on an “experimental” version of the manuscript. If it really works I’ll keep it, if not, nothing lost. It helps me to think of all of the critiques, rejections, and so on as part of a great experiment sometimes! In science you’re always learning, always growing, always perfecting, nothing is ever “all or nothing.” And sometimes it takes years for and experiment to yield results. I learned that from my scientist father and I’m trying to apply it to my writing work. It’s a lot better than the “if this doesn’t work it’s all over” philosophy I’m afraid I’ve often had in the past.

    • LucidDreamer says:

      Sorry for the typo.’s. I should never comment before coffee!

      • nemune says:

        *Hands over some steaming hot coffee.*
        I’ve had something similar to your experience. Granted I am still far from query stage. My crit partner, a few months ago suggested something, and now I’ve been reworking the entire MS. A journey in itself, but seeing the reactions during the marathon, I can tell she was right on the money. A good crit partner = gold mine. 😀
        Thanks for commenting LD! Good luck on the experiment!

  2. T.J. says:

    Ah yes, the Marathon. I am banging my head as I type this…

    A lot of the advice was great. Some not so great. I have been picking and choosing. What would work? What wouldn’t? I tried some advice..and it didn’t work at all…I mean even my normal crit partners were going, “What in the world?” But then, they have read the entire book as well.

    The first half needs the most work. Pacing, passive verbs, etc. I took out the prologue and am sprinkling it throughout the entire first half of the book. I almost have it completely rewritten.

    I also contacted my brother-in-law (more like my butting head partner – we can rarely string three civil words together in one sentence) who is an agented, published author as well as freelance journalist and photographer. His agent – who doesn’t rep my genre – gave me some dang good advice: Still my book…some of the tiny stuff does need work…don’t doubt my own voice. Step back, shelve for now as I am getting too emotional. The same advice my BIL gave me last week.

    You know what? he was right. Although I refuse to tell my BIL that *grin*

  3. LucidDreamer says:

    I know. My crit. partner will deserve an editor credit when all is said and done.

  4. Michelle4Laughs says:

    I figure it is better to hear it now from friends than to hear rejections later from agents. If friends can help me correct things, then the agents never need to see the plot holes and passive writing.

    The longer you do it, the thicker your skin will grow. Just don’t take anything personally. Most people want to help, but they don’t know the whole novel so not all advice is good. It does help to let the feedback sit and give yourself time to absorb everything before deciding whether to take the advice.

  5. Rick Pieters says:

    I’ve received (and, I hope, given) so much helpful advice and insight from trusting my work to readers to critique, or taking on the trust of another writer. I’ve yet to encounter plainly hostile critiques, but then, I tend to only ask people whose views and knowledge I respect. And that doesn’t mean we must agree, or write in the same genres, or anything of the kind. In fact, it’s been helpful to hear from those with very different cultural backgrounds. We don’t want to only be read by people just like us who only like exactly what we like, now do we?

    I’m not sure it’s a matter of thick skin, but of being open-minded and professional. We expect truth, not empty stroking. When asked, we give truthful thoughts, views, and opinions, not holding back, but remembering to sandwich the good with the not-so-good, and always to be kind. Definite, maybe, but kind.

    Sometimes we get some major criticism that demands a complete re-write of a section. It starts in the wrong place. It was great until this unbelievable turn. Rather than stomp off angry and frustrated, how about asking the critiquer, if s/he hasn’t been, to be more specific, honestly see if you agree or disagree (other eyes often see what we’re too close to see), and they give it a try. And we don’t have to agree with every suggested change. But we do have to keep an open mind.

    And occasional whining, in private, is allowed. Just don’t cry and rust the armor.

  6. Joyce Alton says:

    And from the opposite POV…I cringe sometimes when I’ve had to give an in-depth critique to someone else. I worry how they’re going to take it and the last thing I want to do is make them doubt themselves. I want them to succeed and it’s hard sometimes to make good judgment calls between what might be sound advice and what might be subjective. It’s tempting to write up a fuzzy make-the-author-feel-good critique when you don’t want to make them hate you. But those kinds of critiques are useless. I admit, I don’t sugar-coat. I think it’s important for anyone who gives a critique not to leave out what they liked or loved about a manuscript. Writers need to know what is working as well as what isn’t. Otherwise, we self-doubt ourselves into revising that which shouldn’t be revised. I’m always so relieved when someone tells me I actually helped their manuscript. It boosts my confidence as a critiquer.

  7. Deb says:

    I grumble, yell at my computer screen, then go back and correct my ms according to the corrections made. ^v^

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