Friday, July 22, 2011

Handling a Critique or Edit

hey FFFers - sorry for the long space inbewteen posts. I was cast in a show with our local summer theatre and that took up pretty much all of my brain space. :)

Rachel Joy asked about writing in first person. I will be having a guest blogger teach about that. She's great with first person. So, while I'm waiting to get her stuff, let's talk about how we handle being critiqued or edited.

It's not easy being critiqued. We love our stories, our characters, our words. It can feel like a personal attack when someone tells us it's not good enough or needs to be changes. As an author and a freelance editor, I see both sides. So, let's take a look.

Friends and family members are not the best ones to lean on for critique. As a reader, sure, you can run stuff past them, but for a real critique or edit, you need someone in the business. And you need to check them out thoroughly. Anyone can say they're an editor (that goes for agents, too.) On my website, I have recommendations from clients and anyone can contact these people to talk to them.

We have to find a balance of sticking up for our work and not holding on to it too tightly. When I suggest changes, I always give a reason and/or an example. Then the author can try both ways and see what works the best.

When you get an edit, I recommend reading through all the notes and then setting it aside for at least a day - a week is better - and then read it again with fresh eyes.

Please do not argue or get snarky with your editor. Most editors are reasonable people and if you are contracted with a publishing house, they are always willing to talk things out. If you can justify not making some changes, an editor will listen. But if you argue too much, you'll become known as an author who is not easy to work with. Editors know each other and they communicate. It's not as big a world as you may think.

When authors come to me, I tell them they don't have to make my changes. But my goal is to help make their manuscript the best it can be so their chances of getting picked up by a publishing house will be higher. Even if they choose to self publish, they still want their story to be the best it can be or the people who buy the book will not give it a good review on amazon. I don't know about you all, but I read people's reviews on amazon when I'm not sure about a book or item.

So, let's talk. Have you had an experience with an editor or critique group? How was it? How did you handle it?

And one more thing: the Greater Philadelphia Christian Writer's Conference is August 10-13 this year and there's still time to register. The Teens Write day is Thursday, the 11th and we're going ALL DAY this year! It's going to be exhausting, but I think it's going to be great. Hope to see you there!


  1. Thanks, Pam. Something I'm working on...I always feel like I have to "explain" my work...which I wouldn't be able to do if it was published anyway!

  2. It doesn't matter how long you're at this writing thing, a critique can still sting. I've been in the biz for 28 years and written over a hundred books, and I still need that space between receiving the edit and actually responding to it professionally to walk around going, "She doesn't know what the Sam Hill she's talking about!" It keeps me from saying stupid things to the wrong person (i.e. anybody but myself!)

  3. Thanks, Nancy. That's exactly what I'm talking about. Because we are so attached to our words and our words are a part of us, we can react in a negative way when someone tells us we need to change something. It feels personal. It's good to know newbies are not the only ones who struggle with a critique.

  4. BTW, "Rachel Joy" is the same as "Rachel Victor"! See you at the Writer's Conference! (Not sure if I can make Teen's Write, but it will still be great to meet you!)

  5. Yes, Rachel - please come and find me. I'll be all day Thursday with the teens and the rest of the time in the editor's appointment room.

  6. I found way way to critique and am enjoying it. I had and interesting experience last week. I posted the first two chapters of my novel and received a number of good critiques. I tried to take the best from each and did a re write.

    I posted the rewrite and got a couple more reviews. These two reviews caused much more rewriting.

    Feeling good about the results I posted again. One of the women who had reviewed the previous totally ripped it apart this time. All her comments were good, but a little disheartening. At the end she wrote.

    This is really fantastic now. It is so good that I can see all the little problems clearly.

    I hadn't thought about it before, but now I can member my critiquets of other people's writing. Sometimes the writing is so great that all the little things stick out like sore thumbs. Other times it the writing is not so good and all I can say is things like, show not tell, or, sounds ackward.

    I hope to get revision four done this weekend, then I can focus on the next chapter.

  7. That sounds interesting, Doug. But be careful of showing too many people your stuff. You'll get conflicting opinions and sometimes that kind of paralyzes us when we're trying to revise.