On Writing

The Power of a Critique

One of my favorite author buds, @LexValentine, loves to tell people that I’ve “shredded” one of her stories during a critique. Despite many times suggesting she use a different word, that’s the one she sticks to. I would say that I don’t necessarily shred her stories, but I do pick them apart if something doesn’t make sense to me. I’m one of those nerdy, logical thinkers (Mr. Spock would have adored me) and that’s what I’m looking for in a story. Plausibility. And if you don’t give it to me, I’m going to ask you why. And then why again. And why one more time.

The thing is about critiquing a story is that not everyone is looking for a critique. I remember joining a critique group (Gosh! It was only about a year ago) where I expected the other authors (all multipublished) to laud my work for its creativity and awesomeness. Imagine my utter shock when they had the nerve to tell me that they’d stopped reading the story because it was so bad/implausible/needed editing/had a horrible plot/hero sucked/or what have you.

I’ll tell you what. If there’s a single way to break an author’s heart, that’s it right there: don’t love their work.

Thank goodness, I’ve taken this year to grow as a writer. I have learned what makes a good writer, good and I am learning what makes a great writer, great. Because, damn it, I want to be great. I offer to critique others’ works because doing it helps me learn from their mistakes. It took a little while for my skin to thicken, but now when I receive a critique back, I want my story pulled apart. I don’t have to agree with everything that’s in there, but I want to know in advance where I could have kept the Acquisition Editor’s attention better had I only changed this scene or that.

Why all this, you ask?

Because some day, you’re going to walk into Barnes & Noble or Borders or Books A Million or some indie bookstore and see my name on display. The New York Times Best Seller’s List is another place you’re going to find me, too.

The only way I’ll get there is by perfecting my craft to the best of my ability. If that means sucking it up and swallowing my pride while having one of my beloved stories “shredded” by one of my author buddies in a crit, then so be it.

Bring it.