I’m a pretty stubborn person, and when I start an argument you’d better believe I won’t stop talking until I’ve either won or worn my opponent down. But if there’s one person I can’t win an argument against, it’s myself.
Lately I’ve been having arguments with people inside my head. This is problematic. What’s more problematic? My opponents are always right, and oh, how I hate to be wrong.
The arguments are about my crit notes and the imaginary people are my beta readers. Oh, they exist in real life, but I’m not crazy enough to fight their excellent reasoning to their faces. It just takes me time to bite back my pride and recognize the brilliance of their critiques. Because, something you will find when you’ve been doing this awhile? When you find the right critique partners they are pretty much always right.
So, here’s my advice:
1. Find yourself some brilliantly incisive critique partners. This is a process of trial and error, and sometimes you will find that just because someone is a great writer/critter/friend, doesn’t mean they are the right beta reader right for you. It’s a personality thing, as much as anything.
2. Polish, polish, polish your work until it’s as shiny as you can possibly make it on your own. Then admit it can still be better. That’s what your critters are for. It’s always handy to find some humility before you press send.
3. Send it out and watch your beautiful work of staggering genius be picked apart like a package of chips in the presence of seagulls. Mostly, they will be nice about it. They like chips, after all. But it can still be a horrifying thing to watch.
4. Take a break. Let your critters know you received their thoughts and thank them profusely. DO NOT start arguing or defending yourself. Not yet. Not ever.
5. Begin having arguments with imaginary people. Sort through the critiques in your head. Stand in the shower for hours at a time, lie on the couch or in the middle of the rug, clean your house and drive your kiddos to soccer practice, all the time watching your ego fight it out with your critique partners. Ask yourself why your reader felt a certain way. The problem they point out might be indicative of a bigger, underlying problem. Or maybe something else needs to change to make that one pointy part of your MS make sense.
6. Suck it up. (a.k.a find your courage)
7. Start revising.
8. Thank your critters again for being such marvelous, smart, generous people who have helped make your manuscript just that much shinier. Ask for clarification if you need it, but never, ever fight about it. At least not to their faces.
P.S Trust your critters. Know that they only want what’s best for you and your book. But if you find someone is being meaner than they need to, or if the critique seems more personal than impartial, or even if you just have different visions for the work, feel free to set the critique aside. But first examine yourself. Don’t take offense, and don’t react out of ego. It’s not about you. Seriously, it isn’t. It’s about your book, and making it the best possible book it can be.