Even Wonder Woman Has Allies




This week, I'm heading back to the drawing board to do some tweakage on the manuscript that's due (gulp!) in less than two weeks. My brilliant critique partners, Joni and Bobbi, have given me excellent food for thought, each of them pointing out weaknesses or making suggestions so brilliant that they're bound to make me a look a lot smarter than I am. They're also both wonderful to begin by pointing out my manuscripts' strengths so I can capitalize upon them, which also opens me to actually listening to their suggestions. My editor (who never sees anything I haven't had vetted by these trusted allies) has the same excellent habit. In teaching, we used to call this the "two to glow, one to grow" strategy. Everyone, from the tiniest child to an adult seeker (as opposed to an adult who reacts defensively to all suggestions)) takes criticism better if she knows the critiquer cares for and appreciates her and has a genuine interest in her progress.

I don't give my manuscript to just anyone to critique. Too many cooks dilute the author's soup, for one thing, and besides that, it usually takes years to develop the trust and confidence needed to really let your guard down and listen to advice. The writer has to get past her natural inclination to argue and instead focus on deciding which suggestions resonate and which ones are at odds with her vision for the book. Because the buck stops with the name on the cover.

All I can say is thank goodness for all my writing allies! I'm grateful for each and every one of you!

Comments

Joni Rodgers said…
Great post, Colleen. "Two to glow, one to grow" -- filing that for future use with offspring.

Key to good critique, I think -- giving and receiving -- is the understanding that criticism is a sign of respect. It takes maturity, too, which is the downfall of so many college writing classes in which students take each other's work to the wood shed.

Being adopted into a smart (and wise) critique group was the luckiest thing ever to happen in my writing life. I always strongly encourage newbs to find or forge a good creative co-op.
We're thrilled to have you in The Midwives.

You're right that the correct kind of critique group can be the best thing that every happened to a writer. The wrong group, however, can set a person back with harsh criticism, no criticism, competitiveness, and other issues. Better to write on your own than be amongst soul-shredding harpies and pompous windbags deaf to everything except applause. :)

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