Wrecked by Critiques (and Dealing With It)

— August 31, 2012 (12 comments)
Original Picture: Sam Sanford
I know revisions are where good novels are made. I know it. But getting notes back from my critique partners always wrecks me. It's like getting punched in my fear of failure over and over and over and over.

Here's how I deal with it.

1. I have a rule: no reading critiques right before bed. Critiques either make me despair, or else drive my brain into a planning frenzy trying to fix things. Either way, I sleep terribly when this happens.

2. Read it all in one go. No sense in dragging out the torture.

3. Eat some bacon.

4. Write down the major things that need work. Once I see it as a list, I usually realize there's only a couple of things that will take more than a sentence-change to fix (granted, there's a thousand sentence changes, but . . . ).

5. Take a break. My brain needs time to process how to fix things. Optionally: repeat step #3.

6. Make a plan. I don't know about you, but by the time I have a plan (and some bacon), I feel all better.

What about you? Are you wrecked by critiques (and if not, who are you)? What do you do about it?

Enjoyed this post? Stay caught up on future posts by subscribing here.


  1. I love Step #3. I often resort to bacon.

    I do something similar. I read through everything, and then walk away and process it. I might start off all ragey, but usually after thinking about it for a while the stabbiness burns itself out. When I can think clearly again, I go back and get to work.

    And I constantly remind myself that just because it's a critique doesn't automatically mean it's RIGHT! :)

  2. I used to be disappointed by critiques, but over the years, as I've improved, and got a clearer idea of my level of skill, and the things I struggle with (rather than just being bad at nearly everything) I have a far more positive reaction. I got one a few weeks ago on a chapter where they guy had an awesome idea on how to escalate the tension in the scene and it was really right for the story. I was really excited about it.

    And then I've also developed a lot stronger sense of my own style, and a sense of what's a style choice and what's a rule. I have a couple people who are trying to insist to me that I should be using more italics to indicate internal dialogue, and to put the internal dialogue in first person, and I just hate doing that, I find it cheap. The other problem, is I'm also using italics to indicate anything a character is reading, or dialogue coming in over a radio connection, and I don't want to overuse the italics. And then I've read these critiquers works, and dislike the way they handle italics, so I consider the source when I look at those comments.

    But when I get a critique, I've come to the point where I react in a "This is going to be awesome when I've fixed it!" way, because I didn't send it expecting everyone to gush over it, I put it up for critique to find out what I can do to make it better, so that when I send it out for real, to people who matter in the fate of my career as a writer, then it will be the best it can be.

  3. Step three, I did that last night. And it helps. I thought only chocolate helped, but it did wonders.

    Critiques scare me. Last week I got my first real one, and I feel like someone has tossed me in a torture camp. I think I've discovered the best means of torture on the planet, unless the person is some weird Alien and enjoys critiques.

    I hope yours go well though, and that all the bacon helps a ton.

  4. *feels like she's been stepping on kittens* ;-)

  5. I have to skim the crit, just lightly, and then walk away. It's like taking a light dose of the virus in order to get strong enough to tackle the whole thing.

    When I come back, I'm ready to deal.

    And of course, there's chocolate. :)

  6. I need to substitute chocolate for bacon (sorry, but yuck!) but other than that I totally agree! :)

  7. I like to read them, then sit on them for a few days, then read them again. They're always easier to deal with after some stewing time

  8. Critiques are wonderful and make the writing so much better, but they're like being punched and bacon, chocolate, coffee, beer etc is the only way through!

  9. For me it all depends. I can be wrecked by them, and most often am, especially when they're going to require a LOT of work, but I can also be inspired by them, and DRIVEN to implement the changes they've shown me I need (of course, this is kind of to your point 1 - even when they're good, they're bad, because we all have to sleep, eat and make a living).

  10. Great tips, and I'll be sure to check back on them (and store up on bacon).

    Honestly, I have yet to be wrecked by a critique. I really like the challenge (she said with a French accent) of seeing what would work and what wouldn't in the critter's advice. This reaction is probably due to my narcisstic roots. *grins*

  12. Reading this list made me smile, feel better about my own reaction to critique, and want some bacon. Thanks!