(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.
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!