Monday, November 28, 2011

The Perks and Pitfalls of Sending a Second Project Out for Crit

I thought that the most terrifying emails to send would be queries.

I was wrong.

See, ONE is about ready to fly to my crit partners' inboxes for critique. (A couple weeks now. Juuust a couple weeks.)

And I am completely freaking out.

Funny Cry For Help Ecard: Rather than sticking with meditation, I'm sticking with chronic anxiety.

See, I've known these ladies for months and months now. I consider them dear friends. I trust their advice, both about writing and life in general (and fashion, duh) implicitly.  So why am I so stressed about asking them to leave their comments on a manuscript that I KNOW needs critique? That I'm absolutely DYING for feedback on?

It really makes no sense at all. I know that this manuscript is better than the first draft of THE TRAVELERS I sent to Gina this June (poor, poor Gina.) They've all read excerpts (and Excerpts) and been all, "Wheee, I can't wait to read this, hurry up and edit!"

Well - it's precisely BECAUSE I know/love them so well that I'm worried, I think. Deep down, here is what I'm afraid the reaction will be. The crit reaction is first, but the reaction I'm really scared of is in parentheses.

  • This story is stupid/boring/makes no sense (you are stupid/boring/make no sense)
  • This story is essentially the same as the last one you wrote. (Don't you have a single new idea ever?)
  • You can cut this whole chapter. (Why have you wasted my time making me read this whole chapter?)
  • Your dialogue punctuation is consistently incorrect. (I thought you told me you graduated from High School...?)
  • Etc., etc., etc.

Funny Cry For Help Ecard: I'll be publicly sobbing for the next few weeks.

But. The rational part of my brain reminds me that the manuscript needs critique/revision. The only way I'm going to get it is from critique partners. And here's where the wonderfulness of sending a second project to the same group comes in. I already know that my CPs are  the best - I mean THE BEST I can hope for. Here's why:

  • I trust them implicitly. When they tell me to change something, I change it, or at least take them seriously enough to figure out what was bugging them and how I can fix it, even if it's not the exact change they suggested. And that's BECAUSE
  • They care about me and my book. When they make suggestions, exclamations, or giant red slashy lines, on my manuscript, it's all in the name of making my book better and helping me succeed - not cutting me down, or making themselves feel superior, or nitpicking just to nitpick.
  • I can predict the things that will bug them, and remind myself in advance that they are not personal judgements against me. For example:

I know that Gina will have some issue with one of the following:
- the denseness of my MC
- the douchebaggery of her boyfriend
- some of the relationship cheesiness between them.
- lack of description and consistency, which I call "sloppy writing" (but Gina never would, doll that she is)

Maggie's never critiqued a project of mine beyond an alpha read, so I can't predict that much about her, but she's looked at the first page of TT a ton, and I already know she'll tear my grammar limb from limb. Probably paragraph structures too. And then help me put everything back together again.

Jean is ruthless with her dedication to flawless craft. Show don't tell.  End every scene on a question mark. It's chapter five and you are just now introducing a main character? Are you effing kidding me? And why is that character so flat? SHE KNOWS I AM A BETTER WRITER, QUIT WHINING AND SUCK IT UP.

And Chessie is going to MURDER me on what I'm audacious enough to call "science" in this (light!) science fiction manuscript. She'll also indicate at least a dozen times a chapter how much my rampant use of the passive voice makes her want to vomit/stab her own eyes out. You know, lovingly.

(I already know that Heidi, who's going to crit for me for the first time, is a master of paring down a story to its essential elements and an all-round genius.)

Now! Having these things in mind doesn't mean I won't take them seriously. On the contrary! I've assembled my own awesome Charlie's Angels of a crit group.  I know that each member has an eagle eye for different things. I can count on them to help me polish ONE to a high sheen.

Is it still TERRIFYING to think of sending them this draft? Absolutely. And I'll be in my office focusing on deep breathing for about half an hour after I do it.  Because, at the end of the day, I also know that

Funny Cry For Help Ecard: No one understands my work, including me.

but at least I won't get (too terribly) offended when they tell me that.

Do you get nervous to send new stuff to your established crit group? Is it worth it, like it is for me? Tell me in the comments!


  1. Incorporation of the word "douchebaggery" into this post = win.

    Honestly, I get nervous about GIVING crit, because I'm always afraid of coming across as a totally pretentious bitch when in reality I'm just trying to help. But since you're willing to let me unleash my never ending comment bubbles on ONE, I suppose you must still like me. Thank God :)

  2. All that might be true. But we will also tell you how yummy your love interests are (and when you get the Scepter), how exciting the action scenes are (YOU're exciting!), how much we want to read more about these characters after it's over (we love your writing and can't get enough!).

    Because from seeing what I've seen of ONE so far, I guarantee there will be at least as much of that as ripping-apart. :)

  3. Getting critique can be scary, but at least when it's over you'll know what you need to fix. It think it's scarier when I have submission deadline for a short story and I can't get enough critique. It looks good to me, but I've been looking at it so long that really I have no idea if there's something more I should fix.

  4. I love that I'm mentioned in this blog!

    Critique sucks... for everyone. I think the hardest part about receiving loads and loads of comments, is that at some point, you have to trust yourself and your instincts. I can tell you personal horror stories about taking every criticism or comment into a work...

    Now, I like to get a consensus and if one comment comes up repeatedly, I take it and change as need be. I've already told you personally how opinions are like noses, everyone has one.

    Also (JM2C) grammar is awesome, but you can always pay a professional editor (or find a professional editor friend) to review your pages before final send out. A good editor will revise any clunky sentences or dialogue issues... so, don't stress too much about your bad grammar. Most writers have terrible grammar. (Myself included!)

    Regardless of what crit you receive, you know how incredibly talented I think you are, and how certain I am that you will do great work. I'm beyond excited for One... and for where you will go with this story, and others, in the future.

    But, introducing your MC on page five?!?

    Reminds me of a funny (and true) story...

    Many years ago at NYU, this young and lovely writer friend of mine brought in her new and sparkly pages for review. At some point, a character named John (*changed to protect the identity of the main character) started talking without having been properly introduced in the story...

    Of course, our teacher did the only rational thing and FREAKED out, then screamed, "WHO THE F^%& IS JOHN?!?" before chucking the pages at the girl's head.

    We all learned a valuable lesson from that experience... First, always introduce a character early, and especially, before writing dialogue with that character. More importantly, always be prepared to duck during crit. :)

    In any case, the whole point of this diatribe is DON'T STRESS! You're DOING AWESOME! I'm SUPER PROUD OF YOU! Plus, I'm not anywhere close enough to throw pages at your head!

    @Gina - I never get nervous about being seen as a pretentious b%^@h, because I am a pretentious b%^@h ;) Seriously, though... you have to have a thick skin for this business. In the very least, the paper cuts are killer!

  5. Oh YES! I uploaded the first four chapters of my latest first draft to my writing group last night and I. Am. So. Nervous! I started questioning it, being all, Maybe I should delete the uploaded draft, edit again, and resubmit? I do that EVERY TIME. It's so scary. Sometimes, they tear me limb from limb. And sometimes, they love it. But every time, I'm so glad I'm a part of my writing group. Because I wouldn't be the writer I am today without them.
    Good luck!

  6. @Gina - I would weep if you didn't crit this. Hand to God.

    @Maggie - Oh, I know you want to read it. And I know you won't hate it. Or me. It's the IRRATIONALITY of the whole thing that really drives me nuts.

    @bookechoes - Yep! The "One step closer" thing is definitely motivating!

    @Jean - Not THE MC, but A MC. And I think it's actually Chapter 4 *ducks to avoid virtual flying pages*

    @Kris - Agreed a hundred percent. But, yeah. I'm so nervous. Deep breaths.

  7. Don't worry too much because Alexa is just going to make you feel better about everything by saying how totally AMAZING it is in her constantly optimistic attitude :D even though I'm the last one to read it hahah

  8. @Alexa - Ohhhh Alexa. Everyone needs an Alexa in their arsenal. Also, how is it possible that I have not seen you yet this week?????

  9. I totally get nervous! Especially since my crit group has gotten SO GOOD. And especially because I went months without submitting.

    But I was most nervous to have my husband read my stuff. He was just blindly believing in me for so long... I didn't want him to read it and think that maybe his faith in me was misplaced, you know?

  10. I have no idea! I must see you super soon!

  11. I know how you feel. The stress increases when people you trust and respect read your work. You want them to love it and give you praise. But you want them to point out the flaws and tell you the truth.

    I do love it, though. And I love to critique, because I want to see writers get better and better.

    Thanks for sharing.