Newbie Writing Mistakes Monday–TAKING CRITICISM

If you’ve been writing for any length of time, and if you’ve let anyone other than your mom read your stuff, you’ve probably run into a little criticism.

When I finished my NaNo novel with a dramatic yelp of joy, I knew it was headed straight for publication. No roadblocks. Just sheer, unquestioning acceptance by publishers.

Because I was a writer. I’d harnessed my creativity, pouring it into a masterpiece with few, if any, grammatical errors. And goodness knows, I had no spelling errors.

Turns out, it wasn’t that easy.

Turns out, word count was tres important. Also, genre and audience. Also, unfortunately, REVISIONS.

If you’re just starting out, you may know beyond a shadow of doubt that your writing is stellar. But in this day and age, your writing will probably also need to be edited. Or, at the very least, critiqued by outside readers in your genre.

Even though I’d read my whole novel aloud, editing as I went, the crit partners found little gaps and problems with things I’d skimmed over.

And then, when my query was getting bites, but my first 55 pages were getting rejected, I hired an editor. I could only afford one for the first 55 pages. But she was worth every cent. Editors know what’s going on in publishing circles. Trends in writing, if you will. They know what agents are looking for.

And they aren’t afraid to tell you what you’re doing wrong.

Somewhere along the way, I learned to accept and sort criticisms. Agents gave me feedback. Crit partners gave me feedback.

My husband, by the way, only gave feedback on the plot. Because he never read it. This was intentional on my part, since once before, on a book started long, long, ago, he’d torpedoed my ideas and the book sunk into oblivion. Turns out, I value his opinion WAY too much, so I’ve learned to write the book, get it published, and THEN accept his comments (which will probably be good, by that point in my polishing process).

So, what’s the take-away from this?


There was a great post over at Steve Laube about handling crits here:

DISCERNMENT is something you’ll need to develop when it comes to critiques.

Agents will give you feedback. Editors or publishers will give you feedback. Crit. partners will give you feedback. You pick and choose what you can successfully integrate into YOUR book, without destroying the overall vibe/picture/message of it.

Because, in the end, you want a book you can stand behind, knowing it’s your very best work. Editors and crit partners will help you take it to that level. 

But writing is a bit instinctual. You know what major revamp will work for the story, and what will wreck the story. So know where to draw that line.

****What about you? Have you ever followed critiques and revamped your writing, only to scream in despair at the sorry remnants that were left? Or have you been edited/critiqued, and found your story had reached levels you hadn’t even dreamed of?****


18 thoughts on “Newbie Writing Mistakes Monday–TAKING CRITICISM

  1. Every bit of feedback is precious, good or bad. I try to get as many people to look at it as possible because then it's easier to tell what's just one person's opinion, and what really is a troubled spot for the MS.Usually when I disagree with something, I find it's because it's an area I need to improve most in as a writer. My weaknesses make me cringe the most.

  2. I'm learning. I'm open to all suggestions, but I am learning that not all of them are 'right' for me. I need to save up for a professional edit- I wasn't aware I could have them do just part of the book. Thanksalso, do you have suggestions on who to ask to edit?

  3. Any feedback, whether it is good or bad, is GOOD feedback. Critiques, crit-partners, beta-readers and so on, all are priceless tools for ANY writer. Note I said any, because even seasoned writers use them. Yes. We need to develop thick-skins sometimes but I've had several done and they proved their worth every time.

  4. Yes, TC–I used the Christian Editor Network: couple of editors emailed me back, after I gave them some info on my book. I chose the one whose credentials I was most impressed with, AND who seemed like a good fit. She was. Pricing can vary, based on length of chapters, etc. I'll email you the name of the editor I chose. It was well worth the price, just to get those first 55 pages whipped into shape for my querying.

  5. And Ellie, I do think that bad feedback can sometimes derail good books. If you goto the link at Steve Laube, above, someone commented about how they totally gutted their book per someone's request, only to realize it was unrecognizable and they'd wasted their time. I've had some suggestions that could've been more harmful than helpful for my book. So I think that's where you have to have discernment. For instance, in crit groups, you might have a better grasp of spelling/grammar than your crit partners!

  6. "…if you've let anyone other than your mom read your stuff, you've probably run into a little criticism."Lmao! This completely grabbed me – so true! I now love your blog! ; – >

  7. I actually rewrote my first book dues to feedback. I changed the POV from omnicient to Third Person and added added an ending rather than leaving it as a cliff hanger (I'm writing a trilogy). Best thing I could do as the reviews were much better for the second version.

  8. I agree you have to have a certain level of discernment. I always remember that the critique is that one person's opinion at that particular time. On another day, they might say something different. I always listen to the critiques, and then see which parts I agree with.

  9. Yes to both!I had the life sucked out of my opening pages by listening too much to too many conflicting pieces of advice, then some harsh critiquers helped me put it all back together again.

  10. I'm only just now getting into this so I don't have much to add but I will say I accidentally found a fabulous new critiquer last night. My fifteen year old daughter pulls no punches 🙂

  11. My writing never reached such great levels as when I joined my critique group! We have a strict "no prescriptive critiques" policy unless asked for. In other words, we tell each other if a certain thing didn't work for us and why, but unless the writer of the piece asks, we don't tell them how to fix it. It's a GREAT way to get critiques without "writing by committee."

  12. What a cool idea, Shallee! That'd be hard for me, though, since I'm a "fixer." But I tend to fix quantifiable things like grammar and spelling. I like the idea of why plotlines/characters aren't working. I've had some crits like that and they're SO helpful!

  13. Discernment is the right word.Because there is feedback that makes you slap your head and say: "Of course! Why didn't I think of that?"And there's feedback that makes you shake your head and say: "No, no way. That's not right." Then after you've cooled down, you eventually realize: "Okay, that was right. I need to do that."And there's also feedback that is wrong and stays wrong, no matter how cool you get.btw, Heather, I can't figure out how to join your new blog without the join button. I probably have the dumbest method ever of following blogs, but it's the only one I know … 😦

  14. Thanks for the excellent thoughts, Dianne! Yes, SO right. And I think you just plug in your email or click on the RSS feed box at the top right–you can plug in your Gmail reader, if you have that, and there are other options. I know, I feel LOST without my Google Friend Connect! I want to transfer it over, but I've heard Google is taking it away anyway. Sigh. Hope that works for you! You can always "like" my FB page, too. The link's on the right. I update my blogposts on there, too! Thanks!

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