A Writer’s Guide to Stop Panicking and Get the Most from a Critique
by Emily Wenstrom
Even when you ask for it, when people critique your writing it can feel like a dagger to the gut. It can knock out your confidence and even cause you to question whether you should ever bother picking up a pen again.
Photo by star5112
When a group of beta readers critiqued the manuscript for my first novel, I felt like I was on the cusp of a true panic for days. Was my manuscript too problematic to be fixed? Was I a terrible writer? Maybe I wasn’t really a writer at all and should just give up.
But critique feedback can also help you make your work even better—not just in this manuscript but in general. Once I calmed down, I realized that there was a lot of positive in the feedback I’d gotten, too. My manuscript was definitely fixable, perhaps even pretty good—it just had some areas where it could be even better. And then I actually excited to make those improvements and started coming up with even more creative ideas to add into it.
You can get past critique panic too—what makes the difference is how you handle it. Here’s some tips on how to move past the fear and get the most from it:
Accept the critique
The worst thing about feedback is what we imagine it will be. Don’t let the fear of your feedback stop you from moving forward. Bite the bullet and read it through all the way. It’s okay if at first it makes you angry or if you don’t agree with any of it. Just read and take it all in.
Take some space to think about the critique
Once you've read through all your feedback, step away from it for a few days and just let the feedback marinate. It’s hard to hear criticism and alternate ideas about something you've created. During this time, remember the positive comments you got, too–just because there’s ways to improve doesn't mean you’re not a good writer!
But if you let yourself have the time to mull on that feedback, you may be surprised to find you agree or that it triggers new creative ideas. Other suggestions you may decide not to take.
Get a game plan on how to act on the critique
Even when you you've had the space to calm down and decide what to do with your feedback, it can be overwhelming to think about the work required to execute on them. What you need is a game plan.
Write a list of all the things you want to address, and order them from the biggest plot-level changes to the smallest detail changes like word choices. Addressing changes in this order will eliminate some unnecessary effort fixing things that need to change anyway.
Butt in seat.
Then, the only thing left is to put in the work and plug through your to-dos. Stay focused and don’t let this last stage of hard effort get you down. You’ll be working your way into the publishing stages soon.
Receiving a critique on your manuscript can be deeply personal and extremely difficult. But don’t let that fear or insecurity hold you back from getting all you can from constructive feedback. Keep a cool head and a critique can make your manuscript even stronger.