I’ve been blessed with a critique partner. A good one, too. I have no real idea who she is, but she’s beyond helpful. She’s finding little problems I hadn’t even thought to think of before (like asking how many people a single duck will actually feed), passages where I might be trying to fit just a wee bit too much backstory into a scene, and typos that I somehow missed on my first dozen read-throughs.
She gives me positive comments, too- kind of the sugar that helps that bitter, bitter medicine go down. Those I can take. They make me feel happy and warm and fuzzy and kittens and butterflies and rainbows and unicorn farts.
negative “helpful” ones, though… I might not react so well to those.
This is normal, right? Surely I’m not the only one who reads a comment and goes through the five stages of Critique:
“No. What the hell is she even talking about? Did she READ what was on the page? There’s nothing wrong with that passage.”
“Nope, nope, nope.”
*major WTF facial expressions*
*snarling, bared teeth, increased heart rate*
“Who does she think she is? How dare she attack my precious work like this?”
“Wrong, wrong, WRONG. This is all her, she’s being too nit-picky. This was a BAD IDEA.”
*more snarling and growling and gnashing of teeth*
*trembling and/or deep breaths*
“OK. Well, it wouldn’t be so much of a problem if she’d just read what happens 5 chapters from now… maybe if I send that next part she’ll see it differently.”
“It can’t be that big a problem. No, if I just shift around three or four words over here, maybe that will fix this glaring plot hole that she claims to have found.”
*reaching for alcohol and beaucoup de emo music*
“Oh my god I SUUUUCK! I’m the worst writer in all of the history of all of the things! I can’t fix this.”
“I’m going to have to give up. Look at all those notes… I bet all of them are negative. I can’t fix this.”
“I’m a failure. I’ll never get this right. I’m not good enough to fix this. This whole thing was a mistake. I can’t handle this.”
“In case I didn’t say this quite loudly enough before… I SUUUUUUUCK!!!”
“Ugh. Let me look at that again. Huh. Well, maybe that does repeat something I said earlier, just a little. And I guess using the word ‘generally’ does weaken that sentence. I’m gonna politely disagree and leave this one alone, but maaaaybe she has a point about these pronouns being confusing…”
“One thing at a time…”
*go back to first note*
“Eh, this isn’t so bad. I can do this. It’s going to be so much better when I’m done.”
Maaaaybe I don’t go through all of these over every comment I read. That would be crazy, right? Yeah. But as a whole, reading over whatever chunk of writing just went in front of the judge… well, I may have exaggerated just a wee bit, but this happens.
Tell me it gets better. It must; I can already feel my skin getting thicker. And what I take away from this whole thing is this:
The “I can do this”
The “this isn’t as big a deal as I thought it was. She’s only finding minor issues, here. This is not the end of the world”
The “you know what? This story friggin’ rocks. But I can still make it better in a lot of tiny ways.”
And I come away with a massive dose of gratitude, and a new-found appreciation for a critique partner who should be very thankful that she’s a complete stranger who doesn’t actually have to witness the horrible faces I just made at my computer screen.
EDIT: You know, I really should be happy. Not one of my readers has actually mentioned a glaring plot hole (yet), or hated any characters they’re not supposed to hate. People even enjoy reading this. I can only assume that my partner will find bigger things to point out some time, but I can honestly say that I think this book is good. And I should be proud of that.
But I’m still terrified of sending the next chapters.