The Process of Accepting Feedback.
I critique as I read so you get my thoughts as I go. (Big smiley emoji).
Excitement welled in my chest. I’d spent years writing my novel, and I was so proud of it. I’d found a critique group, posted my first chapter, and here it was: my very first critique.
I could see it now: readers would be hooked. They’d beg me for the next chapter, and they’d be devoted fans, hanging on to every word I wrote.
Here came the praise.
So, let’s have a look …
He tore it apart. He dove headfirst into it like Pooh in a honey pot, and he didn’t stop at the pot. He devoured that, too.
I stared at the screen, dumbfounded. Utterly speechless. Shock turned to embarrassment. Embarrassment turned to anger.
What right did he have to say those things? Oh, sure, he could say it in a fancy, happy tone, but it didn’t do anything to stop the pain he caused when he tore my lungs from my chest, that hopeless … *sniff* … not-very-nice … *sniff* … person, *sob*.
I’d gone from expecting compliments to seeing that there were so many things wrong, I’m surprised he knew where to start. Other critiquers agreed with him and happily added their own thoughts, condemning my mess of words.
Needless to say, I retreated into a tub of ice cream and an action film where good guys stopped terrorists and gave them a beating just to be safe.
It took a few days before I returned to that feedback. What those critiquers wrote had rolled through my head so many times, I felt numb, but I had to read it again. I just had to.
‘She ran quickly — You could just say she ran. She’s not going to run slowly, is she?’
Okay, well, I suppose he has a point there.
‘You say he has blue eyes. Earlier he had green eyes. Keep it consistent.’
Fine, it is supposed to be blue eyes. My mistake.
‘Your scene descriptions are lovely. But this is the start of a new story. We really shouldn’t be looking at half a page of description. Give us a hook. Draw the reader in with something that begs questions and compels them to read on.’
I completely disagree. There’s nothing wrong with how I’ve started it. Look. The sky was blue. It was sunny, too. And hot.
Well, maybe that’s not exactly interesting. Okay, fine, it’s not at all interesting. How was I ever proud of this?
The pattern continued. Not just through that critique, but the other ones, too. Most everything they’d said was right.
From there, I read through them again and made edit after edit.
By the time I’d finished—it took a while—I read my chapter again. It was completely different. And so much better! Just like that, I’d become a better writer. I understood where I’d gone wrong. I understood how to fix it. I understood what not to do in the future. And by gum, I felt stronger for it.
Fast forward another eight years, and my peers are picking up on a whole new array of weaknesses, but they’re smaller and more focused than that first round of critiques. I get a lot more compliments now, too.
To this day, I still look back on those critiques with a sense of gratitude. If it hadn’t been for those critters, I wouldn’t have learned all I had, because that’s what feedback is: a learning opportunity. It’s a chance to let go of my pride and see through unbiased eyes. It’s a gift to see my weaknesses, to spot flaws, to pick up on plot holes that otherwise would have gone unnoticed. Through feedback, I can find weak areas and restructure them until they’re so strong, even a hurricane couldn’t tear them down. It’s led me to stronger writing, compelling story-telling, and becoming a better, more confident writer.
Getting feedback isn’t easy. Sometimes it’s a killer. Sometimes, it’s not even right. Whatever the case, it always has merit, and if you let it, if you use it, it’ll transform your writing. It’ll transform you.