Friday, May 9, 2014

Taking Criticism - no, I'm sorry, your manuscript isn't perfect....

I hate to break it to you...but that new manuscript you've been slaving away over, probably isn't perfect. I'm going to hit you hard, and I'm going to hit you quick. Pull it off like a band-aid. But you need to be told this. You've got some work to do, my friend, and you need someone to set you straight.

Oh come on. Don't cry. It's not that bad. Every writer needs to be told this.

I know, I know. You finish your manuscript, and you think it's the best thing since sliced bread...side note..depending on the sliced bread it's actually not that good for you. AVOID THAT HIGH FRUCTOSE CORN SYRUP AND WHITE BREAD! Whole wheat is the way to go!

Ahem - where was I?

Yeah, so your fresh new manuscript. The idea may be amazing, and you may have had the words flowing from your mouth when you banged it out, but here's the thing. You have been blinded by your own creative juices! BEWARE THE NEW MANUSCRIPT BUG! It kills writers! And this is where your closest, and most honest colleagues come into play.

If you haven't done so already. Grab yourself a beta reader and critique partner. Now this can be your friend, or family member, but I'm warning you. This isn't always the best idea. Friends and family have a tendency to "sugarcoat" things. And as a writer, trying to perfect your craft that's the last thing you need. You need someone to tell you "Hey, um. This line sucks." or "This doesn't make any sense." or "I'm confused." or "Are you sure you're in the right line of work?" - Okay maybe that last one is a little harsh, if someone says that to you whack em over the head.

But in all seriousness, this needs to happen. You can't expect to get any better, if everyone keeps telling you that you're amazing. My parents for instance....oh, boy....I can't send them anything without them saying "OH MY GOD, TOM THIS IS YOUR BEST WORK YET I CANT WAIT TO SEE IT ON SHELVES" - seriously? Did you even read it? I can probably put in things that don't make any sense and they'll still love it...I NEED YOU TO TELL ME YOU HATE IT!!!! YOU DESPISE IT!!! RIP IT A NEW ONE!!!

I went to art school, and one of the things we learned in our classrooms is how to critique each others work and handle criticism. Criticism is meant to improve your work, and it's not meant to insult. We would hang our work up on the wall, and everyone, and I MEAN EVERYONE, would go around and we would take turns ripping each others artwork to pieces.

But guess what? We learned from these critique sessions. We learned what we were doing wrong, and the next time we had to do a similar project, we didn't make the same mistakes.The same goes for writing. If you have someone tell you that you are doing something wrong, you're not going to find yourself trapped in an endless cycle of producing the same errors over and over again. You're going to learn from it.

If you take criticism as an insult, you are not ready for this industry. People are going to hate your work, no mater how many other people love it. People are going to say your work is horrible. Now if those people don't give reasons, then they are just trolling. But if someone says to you "I don't like this, because I feel it does this...." or "I think you can do this...", you need to be open to the suggestion.

I just finished editing my latest MG manuscript thanks to the work of some great beta readers. And you know what? each of them ripped it apart to the next level. Now I look at my manuscript, and I think it's shiny like a newborn baby booty.

So take it from me, handle the criticism and take advantage of what people may think or suggest. If you find the right person to help, you'll find an invaluable person to assist you on your quest to becoming a writer.

Just don't take it personally. And if you do? Well, shake it off. Welcome to being a writer.


  1. The single least helpful feedback from a beta-reader is, "this is great, don't change anything." When I've gotten this sort of response more than once, I know this is not a reader I will be helped by.

  2. OK, a word about "sliced bread." Actually, that cliché is so appropo, because when bread was sold SLICED FOR YOU a lot of Moms said, "Why would I pay more for that? I can slice my own bread just fine." But as time went on, the method was perfected until it became the most convenient way to get bread. That's when the cliché was coined and in truth it has nothing to do with the nutrition of the slices. (But I enjoyed your side note anyway.)
    Thanks for a great post! :)

  3. I really needed to read this today!! ;) Printing....