Finding Joy In Critiques

Mary Rakow spoke at Tri-Valley Writers on what editors or agents might do with your first page. She had a lot of good advice, but the best piece was about weighing the suggestions an editor might make. She told us the advice we should take is the advice that makes us say joyfully, “Yes, that’s exactly what the story needs.”

That seems like a simple thing, but it requires two decisions from us as writers. First, it requires our commitment to making the story better. The only time I could ever say for certain that I had done all that needed doing was when I briefly volunteered as a bookkeeper. If all the numbers added up at the end, my job was finished. Every other job, task, or project I’ve ever attempted has always left me knowing that the outcome could be better if I worked more. Deadlines and conflicting schedules often made that impossible, but I still knew there was room for improvement. As long as we accept that concept about our work, we’ll continue to grow as writers

The second requirement is that we pull ourselves out of denial and honestly look at each paragraph, each sentence, each word and be willing to let it go. That’s harder than you might think. Do it anyway. When you train yourself to approach your work honestly, you will find joy in critiques. After all, it’s helping you get closer to putting the brilliant story dancing in your head on the page, so others can enjoy it too.

Luck and wisdom!

Author: Lani Longshore

Quilter, writer, chocoholic, black belt (karate), killer of houseplants, reader of maps (and I still get lost)

3 thoughts on “Finding Joy In Critiques”

  1. I don’t think I’ve ever written anything that when I went to reread it afresh after some time that I haven’t made changes. That’s why when I write someone, especially if I’m disagreeing with something they’ve said or done, I wait at least 24 hours before sending. Some critics are off base. Once someone objected to a word choice in a novel because it was poetic. I considered it a compliment.

  2. It’s the part about being honest with ourselves that can be really hard. After all, we wrote it because we liked it, and “killing our darlings” takes courage. Thanks for the reminder that not everything we write is wonderful, and we need to be willing to sacrifice it for the greater good of the writing.

  3. This is an excellent recap of Mary’s presentation. I love critiques. Even though I may not agree with some recommendations, they make me stop and think about how I can make the story better.

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