Wednesday, August 4, 2010

You Want Me to Change WHAT?

We all know how important it is to accept criticism of our work gracefully. After all, readers, critique partners, and agents are only trying to help us make our book the best it can be. We're all in this business because we love story! So why is it so hard to accept criticism? I think there are a few reasons:

  • Deep down, what we really want when we share our work is for people to say it's perfect, because that would mean that WE'RE perfect, which is perfect. 
  • Sometimes criticism is simply a matter of opinion. Therefore, it's easy to extrapolate that out to: all criticism is wrong opinion!
  • We have an idea of what we're willing to change in our story (the protagonist's favorite color, a side character's foreign accent, the sequence of events leading up to the climax). When someone dares to suggest we change anything BEYOND that, it's horrifying. What?! You want me to change the point of view? The tense? The climax? The age--and therefore entire setting--of my characters? 
NO!! cries the inner delicate flower that is our writing soul. Say it ain't so!!

But it is so. That's why we submitted the book for critique in the first place. We knew there were imperfections that needed weeding out. We even guessed there might be structural problems. We just weren't sure how to fix them. That's where the critical reader came into the picture with advice we weren't quite ready to receive.

Did we shoot the messenger?

Today I vow to make a greater effort to accept literary criticism with grace and appreciation, with an eye toward improving the story at all costs--even if it means rewriting the whole darn thing! 

And above all, I will not shoot the messenger!

Want to join my e-pact? You don't need to sign your name. Just whisper the above vow to yourself (or say it in your head if your cat is giving you a look). Nobody will know but you. And you're the only one who needs to.    


  1. I have officially joined your e-pact!! Criticism is not for the faint of heart. If you can't take it, you'll never improve as a writer.

    It also makes you quite the sucky person :)

    Great post!

  2. Awesome post, and true. I whisper the e-pact with you :)

  3. Great post! My favorite part is "Sometimes criticism is simply a matter of opinion. Therefore, it's easy to extrapolate that out to: all criticism is wrong opinion!"

  4. See? This is why I had to gush about you guys in a blog post again. You are made of awesome! Thanks for the true and insightful comments!


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