Critters and Other Hazards of the Writing Life

After testing the waters at the 99th Page and finding them somewhat hostile, Lesser Apricots perfectly captured the issue with crits. They're soooo frustrating. I mean, you knock yourself out to write this stuff, right? And then, ever so gingerly, you put it out there for the world to view. Naturally, you want to hear major atta girls and "wow, fabulous, best thing I've ever read, pure genius!" Instead, you get a grab bag of opinions, some more qualified than others. One person adores it, another says it's crapola. "Too many adjectives," "not enough description," yada yada yada. Not a drop of consistency to go with. What's a writer to do with all this? 

As an example of how frustrating this kind of feedback can be, enter exhibit A: reviews from my ABNA excerpt. I'll spare you the uploads. Suffice it to say, two people reviewed. One loved, one did not. Very little agreement between the two. Took the advice, revised ferociously, and then comes exhibit B: reviews from my PNWA contest entry. Again, no need to subject you to the sordid details  But again: one reviewed liked it (85 out of 100, not bad for an early draft); the other did not (68 out of 100 -- what were you smoking??). And again, essentially no agreement in suggested edits. Finally, exhibit C: the multiple crits from online and face-to-face critique groups. Contradictory recommendations abound. I do look for recurring themes and obvious errors. If the crit fits, I wear it. Otherwise, it's all just helping to thicken my skin. And when I get those form rejections that say, "this remains a subjective business," I know they're telling the truth. 

Here's my advice: Write and revise until you love what you've written. Look for areas of agreement among your crits. Decide what makes good sense for you. And then save any further changes for those recommended by your professional editor or agent. Happy writing.


  1. Thanks Callie!

    It's the inconsistency that gets me-- especially online when you don't know much about the person who is doing the critiquing.

    You do develop a thick skin, though.

  2. That is hard. And being the one to critique is hard too when you want to fill the page with thata girls, but also want to give useful critical feedback that will actually help them improve.