When I Said I Wanted Critique

The stages of accepting criticism, as told through gifs.

Manuscript: finished.

Happy dance: awkward and accomplished.

Alcoholic beverage reward: Postponed, because I’m sending my baby out for beta readers to barrage with suggestions and may need the support.

The file has been attached and sent to the sweet people who volunteered their time, gently released with all of my hopes trailing behind.

Just like this. Only more magical, obviously.

While they read–and this takes as long as it takes because they have a life, so hurry up and wait and do it with grace–I’m going on with my own life but inside I’m thinking . . .


Then one day, an email. They have read the first half or so and have some thoughts. Time to clench up and open that attachment!


If you have picked people who critique because they truly want you to become a better writer they generally come at you with the compliment sandwich approach. My beta readers are excellent, caring, wonderful people who all do this.

And you know what? It still hurts. It burns right through my fragile ego like acid. I had this thin, tender shred of hope that I had somehow entered the alternate reality where a first draft has only minor, easy fixes and I wouldn’t be stomped with all of my mistakes but the comments come streaming in like a waterfall of rocks and . . .


The first reaction is a defensive one. I read over their comments and let the pain flow through me, the next step is to channel Dame Maggie Smith when she’s told that she hates to be wrong.


Denial can be satisfying for a little while, but real life is still popping up to poke the comfy bubble. I asked for their help and I got it. The thought that they might be right keeps nudging as I take a few days to let it settle


It’s time to open that email back up and take another look. I tentatively try some of the fixes, and at first it’s like . . .


But as I read on and let the advice sink in, it makes more sense every time. This part here drags. That was a badly written dialogue tag. And this sentence is confusing like they said. This here is too much telling and can get cut. And it’s making the story better! Wow! Really, they are a font of wisdom. All of it is seen through new eyes.


Newly hacked apart and shiny the improved manuscript sits there steaming and I want to send my beta readers the edited version in the entirely mistaken belief that a good reward for their hard work would be to make them read the whole thing again. I don’t.

What I really want to do is show them I used their wisdom, and a better way to do that is send them a thank-you email with a few sentences about how I used their comments and appreciated them. I generally leave out the whole angry-denial spiral part.

Now I have a *finished manuscript and I’m ready to start the whole process over again, with another critique reader.

Wait, what?



featured image: stocksnap.io and Josh Byers





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