Monday, August 1, 2011

Take it like a Writer

We all have moments as a writer where we want to shove our work out the window and call it a wash.

A chapter isn't working.

The POV is all wrong.

No one likes your main character.

We work through those steps like a champ... okay, so not exactly like a champ. I keep the food staples in the house - wine, cookies, and ice cream (speaking of which BLUE BELL has just made individual woman sizes - yea, they said woman sizes... that's kind of awesome... but off topic). So yea, I have the food staples to carry me to the next phase.

Next phase meaning you've revised the crap out of your novel and it's now in possession of your crit buddies. Or what I like to call the crit tryouts. Those in which you send a chapter and see what they think.

Then you wait.

And wait.

And wait.

Then you get it back and EVERYTHING is red.

This is where you need to take it like a writer.

Deep breaths, read what's written, think objectively, and close the document. Why? Because thinking objectively  never happens the first round (yes, I'm referring to myself). I normally cry (if there is a lot of red)... they hate me, they think I'm a bad writer, maybe I am... maybe I suck. Those are the things that run through my head.

I've found waiting THREE days does wonders. It gives me time to thank the critique buddy for all they've done once you realize it was helpful.

So next time you get a critique and you want to scream... give it three days. It'll help. Take it like a writer.

What works for you?

56 comments:

Jessica Bell said...

Because I'm also an editor I can take it like an editor too and completely understand the reasons why someone has said what they have said. So I never get upset. But I certainly don't ever agree with everything either. I just keep that part to myself :o)

Lindsay N. Currie said...

Yup, you're absolutely right. Give yourself a moment (or three days) to remember why you send them your MS and how valuable their insight is. Then, come back and attack it. Good post Jen and I love your optimism:)

Sarah Pearson said...

I'm not at the needing a crit stage yet but I'm practising with the ice-cream eating bit :)

Clarissa Draper said...

Thanks for your wonderful comment on my blog. Now, I have a question for you? What's a 'Woman's' size? They should make it a little more clear like the medium 'my husband is really pissing me off' or the extra large 'I'm PMSing and if you come near me I'll attack you with a pitchfork' sizes.

Love the post, hate the waiting game. That's the time of my life when my fingernails never grow.

What works for me? Coffee, wine... oh, you've covered that.

Writers have backbone, that's for sure.

Laura Pauling said...

Three days def. works. I need just enough time for the comments to sink in and realize that some of them might be right on the money!

Creepy Query Girl said...

closing the document is certainly the first step for me too. I can take criticism. But I have to be prepared for it. When it's out of the blue and I don't sit on my hands fast enough..Bad things can happen. lol. But I agree, no matter how long we're at this- it's a constant excerise in taking it like a 'writer'. It never gets any easier either I think.

Christine Danek said...

Three days does work. When I first get it back, I read it, take it all in, cry maybe, eat some chocolate, have a drink. If I have any questions off the bat I write them down. I do send a thank you. Then I wait for three days, then open it and review and make the changes I think are required.
It's not easy, none of this is.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I found I could dive right in, because once I read through their suggestions, I realized they were right.

Dominique said...

I'm really greedy when it comes to feedback. I want it, and I want it now. So, when I get it, I like to dive right in. Sometimes I'll take time to think about something I didn't agree with, but I usually can't stop myself from at least reading it all right away.

Stina Lindenblatt said...

LOL We wrote the same post (even though we're not taking about each other)! :D

Seeing the red ink is scary, but a lot of times those comments are positive too. (At least they are when I crit) I haven't figured out a way to make them less scary, unless you color code them, and that take too much work on the critter's part.

Chris Phillips said...

I only need a night to get over my angst and start looking at how to fix it. But on another topic, I don't think you should be excited about woman sizes. Seems discriminatory. Are you going to let them tell you how much Blue Bell you can eat? I didn't think so.

Dianne K. Salerni said...

Floating on a pool float and staring at the sky usually does me wonders!

Which leaves me up a creek without a paddle in all the seasons besides summer! LOL!

Substitutes for floating during the other seasons -- walking the dog at the nature preserve helps a bit, and so does riding the ski lift.

li said...

I always get that ugly sinking feeling, and of course, the usual "maybe I do suck at this" reaction. But then I generally take it as a challenge. You want this fixed? You want a better ending? The dialogue's clunky? Fine! You've got it!
*scribble mumble scribble scribble*

Angela Felsted said...

Great advice. It amazes me how much of the writing process happens when we're not writing at all.

Emily White said...

I've never had to wait three days (an hour or two is usually enough--which is good because, otherwise, I'd never get anything done), but yes, taking time away from your broiling emotions is always a good idea. I don't think I've ever sent a book to a CP without thinking they'd absolutely fall in love with it and find nothing to change. Yeah...it's never actually worked out that way.

It's hard to ever think our babies aren't perfect, but alas, they often aren't (at least not in the beginning).

GigglesandGuns said...

Three days is about right. I need to think about all the suggestions before I do anything and I never argue. I can't use every suggestion so I just ignore some of it.

Stephen Tremp said...

I do the waiting thing too. Let things simmer on the back burner for a while. According to feedback I have a strong book I'm filling out. Except for the ending. Always the ending. These are fixable problems. Good to hear about them now and fix them rather than hear it from readers purchasing the final product.

Deana said...

Woman sizes? No kidding! That is hilarious:)

I don't know that I have a system. I need one. The only thing I have tried so far is trying not to get all hyped up once my inbox says my crits have been returned. I try to think objectively, sometimes its hard, but what else can you do?

I guess eat ice cream.

E. Elle said...

Okay, I love the idea of women's sizes for ice cream. A little demeaning in some ways but I guess just responding to a fact of life.

It took time to figure out how I needed to handle critiques. You're definitely right about waiting to respond, I think. When I reach the crit partner phase, I will keep that in mind.

I won't lie. I pretty much hate the color red anyway. ;o)

Johanna Garth said...

Critiques are always hard because by the time you let someone else read your work you tell yourself it's perfect (which it never is). My strategy is similar. I quickly scan and if it's too bloody I walk away and come back to it in a couple of hours/days until I can really digest the information.

Cherie Reich said...

I'm very similar to you on this. I read through the comments and then close the document and don't open it against until at least a day or more has passed. I need the time to sort through my feelings of what the person said and why it was said. It can be difficult, but now as an editor too, I take it better. I still set it aside, though. I need to think of what's working, what isn't, and how to make it work.

Michelle Merrill said...

I totally close the document! Or at least minimize it for a while. It's always daunting until I actually go through it after I've let my mind calm down :)

And in the end, it always helps! Crit buddies are the best thing for a novel. I'm convinced it takes MANY people to get a novel just right :)

M.J. Fifield said...

I had one crit that made me see red and pissed me off for days. So I set it aside until I was seeing less red, reminded myself that the beta reader was entitled to their obviously wrong opinion and then everything was fine again.

D. U. Okonkwo said...

Tell me about it! Fact is, though, I love people to be thorough with my work. I don't want 'yes' men around me. The more critical, the better I can make my work. At long as it's tactfully pulled apart with constructive suggestions I'm good.

Anna Banks said...

Ha ha, just went thru line edits and copy edits, so I feel ya. What I find is that it's not so much waiting three days that helps, but reviewing the suggested changes three TIMES before digging in. After you've looked at something 3x, it's just not as shocking; in fact, it's old news by then. :)

E.R. King said...

So true, Jen! I should do as you suggested and wait three days, but I don't know if I can. I'm so upset it's all I think about. Like you, I cry, I wail, I promise myself I'll never write another word ever again, and then the next day I'm okay. I feel better. I feel stronger. I feel like I've overcome a weakness and that I'm better because of it.
It's good to know I'm not the only one who has tantrums. Sometimes, it's best to just let it all out.

Melissa Sarno said...

Love it. I agree that it's good to have some distance from critiques in order to think over the comments. I think it's important to remember that people are trying to help you improve your work, even if all that red feels like an attack sometimes :-)

Julianna said...

So exciting that you have a novel to critique! Good for you! When I feel discouraged, it helps me to remember that there isn't a cap on success in this world. There is plenty of it for everyone and so, no need to rush. :)

Talei said...

I'm with you. Definitely take it like a writer! We have to! And I agree with leaving critiques for a few days, don't get upset with it, its to help improve your writing. I know I need lashing of red for my stories.

Have a lovely week! ;-))

Chantele Sedgwick said...

I totally agree. Give it a few days and go back and see what you need to work on. When I first started writing, I dreaded getting critiques back. But now, I like them. I want to get better and want to know what does and doesn't work. It makes us all better writers, you know? :)

Jennifer Hoffine said...

Take it like a writer...good one! But it does take a few days to pull that thick skin on sometimes.

linda said...

I'm nowhere near the critiquing stage yet, but I'll be sure to keep this in mind when I get there! Thanks for the tips. :)

ajkulig said...

I often red up my own MS, I like red pen. I like forgetting I was the one that wrote the peice of trash in front of me. My husband always admies my ability to do that to myself, I say it's all a part of being a writer.

Though ice cream does help. =)

Jenny Rose said...

I think becoming a writer has helped me learn to better process criticism in the rest of my life and sort through some of the baggage of the past.

Samantha Vérant said...

Part of being a writer is being able to listen to critique. Sometimes you want to yell WTF this person doesn't know what the hell they're talking about...and then you sit back, take a deep breath, and WHOA, they may have a point!

Samantha said...

I've had moments like this. Nothing sounds more appealing than throwing your wip out the window, but giving yourself time to mull over what the crit had to say definitely gives you perspective.

Great post!

Teenage Bride said...

Time outs can do wonders..... for kids and writers haha

Janet Johnson said...

I totally agree! Three days is just about right. :)

Jolene Perry said...

Yep.
I HAVE to read through and tell myself that they're trying to make it better.

Also - I've sent out enough things for critique, that I start to look forward to what they have to say. It's not NEARLY as scary as it used to be.

Spangle said...

Sometimes I find critques difficult, because I'm always worried that none of the stuff I write is any good. However you're right, I have had to learn how to step back and look at my work objectively. I realise now that any critique from friends, is only there to help make my work better.

Thanks for the lovely comment you left on my blog and I look forward to reading more of your posts in future!

cherie said...

It's never easy. I always just close my eyes, take a deep breath, and then tackle the edits/crits. The mantra "It's all for the best" pops up in my head. Crits, no matter how hard or harsh, allow me to see my work in a different light or angle. So I'm grateful for them.

Abby said...

Hey! I am dropping by your blog! Thanks for visiting mine! I love your blog! It is wonderful. I actually did post very similar to this today! Great minds think alike! But I totally agree - sometimes taking time away to accept the criticism and see the good in it is best. In fact, probably essential! Plus, its good to know that we aren't the only ones who need to do that. You rock!

Jennifer Hillier said...

The Three Days Rule is genius - and so, so necessary. It gives you that time to get all your emotions out and then process it all.

I used to participate in workshops where we weren't allowed to respond to anyone's crits for 5 whole days, and then once we could, we could ONLY ask questions for clarification, not comment on the comments. It was a good policy and kept folks from getting upset with each other, because after 5 days, you were feeling okay, even if the crit seemed harsh at first.

Clara said...

In the beginning I also waited, but I've gotten really used to the red by now, so usually when I take it I breathe, read again and then its fine.
Great post lady! I read my critiques on my third glass of whisky, it helps too. :D

Lydia K said...

Those days feel so awful, but a bit of time makes it a little better!

Robyn Campbell said...

Great post, Jen. And I feel your pain. I reason the same way that you do. Are we twins???

I always have to give a crit several days. Unless it's my hubby doing the crit. Then he *ahem* kinda gets the full brunt of my bad thoughts. Poor guy.

Bookish Brunette said...

LOL! So what you're saying is... DON'T scream... throw things at the nearest unsuspecting bystander and breathe a little? :)

Christina Lee said...

GREAT, Jen! Sometimes even a good night of sleep does wonders!

LynNerd said...

Three days is reasonable. Sometimes it takes a little longer to let it really sink in, and then something clicks and things fall into place and in the end, it's so much better, and I wonder why I didn't see it before.

Arlee Bird said...

After all they're only trying to help. And it's not like school where you're trying to please the prof and get a good grade, this is real world of sell it or scrap it. If it's scrap then it's gonna be hard to sell. I'd rather get my helpful bad reviews from crit partners, than devastating career killing criticisms from the critics and the buying public.


Lee
Tossing It Out

alexia said...

Great post! You are so right, we all get those insecurities, and time does wonders for many things.

Caitlin said...

A lot of mental abuse, maybe a drink, and then a big "suck it up" pep talk. Like you I have to step away for a few days, and after all of that I can step back in what a somewhat clearer mind and get back to work.

Christa said...

Waiting three months also changes things in a different but sort of good way. Nice post, Jen.

Christa said...

Waiting three months also changes things in a different but sort of good way. Nice post, Jen.

Jo-Ann said...

Hi Jen. Great blog, great post.

You're 100% on the ball - take it on the chin, cool down, and reevaluate. The harshest critiques are usually the ones that contain the most valuable lessons.

When I find myself thinking "this git just doesn't get it" about a comment - the reality is that I just failed to make my point clear. I would be worried if a manuscript came back with LOL! all over the margins and not one bit of constructive feedback. It would be more likely that the critter didn't take the time to read it properly, or got to the task of critting after taking just one too many puffs on the whacky tobbaccy.

Kelley said...

I think taking time to reflect (like you said) is really important. I normally feel overwhelmed first. Then I make myself chill on it for a while, but I don't make it very long before I want to jump in there. So waiting definitely helps!