What to do with a critique …
A critique is like an ingredient to a pot of chili. The chili just happens to be your story. If you wanna make the story better, you gotta let the ingredients simmer. Doesn’t even Wendy’s restaurant have a thing that says “Good chili cooks for 1 hour. Better chili cooks for 2 hours. Our chili simmers for 4 hours”? or something like that? A critique is the same way. You gotta let it simmer.
Here’s why …
Last week, I received 19 pages of feedback on After Dark. When I told a writer-friend that my beta reader sent 19(!) pages, she went … “oh, no” … because when 19 pages come in … one must wonder what could be said?
Well … I could have shuffled it off and filed it in email never see the light of day. But that wouldn’t be me.
Instead, I opened the file, oh, so tentatively, with both anticipation and fear tightening around my heart.
The first words were:
The opening is incredibly sensory.
And my heart soared. 🙂
So then, I read on:
The rest of the chapter flowed perfectly IMO,
I wanted more! Think about the thrumming of your heart when something really touches it … that’s what I was feeling.
And then later there is something like this …
I’m really sorry, but …
I kept reading and reading through all 19 pages. Why? Because I asked for feedback. I didn’t say “Please tell me that my novel is awesome” (which she did say) or “I am the greatest writer on earth” (which she did not say). I asked for a story critique. Tell me what works and doesn’t work by reading the entire thing — the big picture.
That’s exactly what I got. In this case, 95% of the critique exclaimed how fantabluous the story is! Extracting from that the brick walls, the showstoppers, the reader halts, let me make a series of edits to After Dark that 1) make it stronger and 2) helped me solidify some of the plot for Day After.
See? Here’s the thing. That ‘sorry’ comment was totally right. It was mixed in with a bunch of other comments and didn’t even ‘hurt’ because I was happy to hear my reader enjoying the story that when a point cropped up, I could look at it objectively and go ‘hmmmm…. you know she might be right on that.’
But <--- (There is always a but) ... I didn't run off and edit right then and there. I got my 19 pages on April 16th. I didn't DO anything with them until April 19th (very unlike me, I must say -- I have the patience of a gnat). I let those comments (ALL of them) simmer. In the simmering, the changes (some minor, some major) and mixed in with ideas. I added a dash of characterization, sprinkled in a few other thoughts and out came draft number 5(?) of After Dark -- yummier, with more flavor and with an ending that leaves one wanting another bowl (or part II). Those 19 pages? Awesome. I’m not sharing my reader’s name because 1) I fear all writers will want to jump on the chance to get that kind of feedback and 2) *I* want more of it! <-- see? those ingredients made my chili scrumptious (well, in my case, my book even better). While I did not end the story for this particular reader ... here are her end comments.
I hope I’ll get an opportunity to read the next instalment, because I HAVE TO KNOW what happens next. 🙂
Tell me what you do with your critiques? Trash them? Bash them? Let them simmer? Jump on them right then and there? Stir the point with your flavors!