The Five stages of Critique

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.

The 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:

1. Denial

“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*

2. Anger

*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*

3. Bargaining

*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*

4. Depression

“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!!!”

5. Acceptance

“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…”

*deep breaths*

“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. :/

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About Kate Sparkes

Kate Sparkes was born in Hamilton, Ontario, but now resides in Newfoundland, where she tries not to talk too much about the dragons she sees in the fog. She lives with a Mountie, two kids who take turns playing Jeckyll and Hyde, two cats, an intentional boxer and an accidental chihuahua. She's the author of the bestselling Bound Trilogy (mature YA Fantasy). www.katesparkes.com View all posts by Kate Sparkes

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