Phases of a Critique

My adorable and very expressive five-year-old is demonstrating my second phase of a critique.


I know critiques are a necessary evil. I get that.
But that doesn’t mean I have to like them. I still get the clammy hands as the feeling of dread washes over me. It’s so hard for me to click on that email that I know is going to tell me things about my ms I’m not going to like. I know the phases I’m about to go through, and while I hope I get through them fast – sometimes they seem to take forever.
PHASE 1 – Wait, what? (Disbelief)
They say love is blind. If you love your manuscript as much as your own children, then there are problems in it you’re just not going to see. Like when you don’t notice that your significant other hasn’t showered in three days (OK, well maybe you’ll notice that one).
I had a critique on my ms once that said, “Geez this girl faints at the drop of a hat. NO NO NO. I’ve got to say you’ve maxed out on the fainting business.” My first reaction: “Slowly step away from the crazy juice”. Then the second phase kicks in.
PHASE 2 – Meet me in the parking lot in 20 minutes (Anger)
“She faints twice. TWICE! And its a quirk!”
If I’m lucky I morph from disbelief to anger in the matter of a few minutes. Sometimes it takes me days. Some people may never even reach phase two, they just plain don’t believe it even if it is a valid point. At this phase I feel like yelling, screaming (see photo above), and the “for better or for worse” part of my marriage vows kick into effect because luckily I don’t take it out on who critiqued it. I take it out on my husband. My husband, the quiet man who brilliantly listens and nods his head like the best of them. He’s been around me enough to know that he should just ride out the storm, agree with my screams and hope that phase 3 gets here super-quick.
PHASE 3 – Oh! Pounds head against the wall (Comprehension)
Once I read through my manuscript again I noticed a pattern I hadn’t noticed before. Yes, my MC fainted twice, but the intruder in her room got knocked unconscious in chapter two and her love interest got knocked out in chapter four (and that was just the beginning of the book). I was taking the easy way out again and again and didn’t realize it.
I think that’s the major reason not everyone can get out of this phase – some critiques are very hard to decipher. When I first read her comment, I assumed she meant my main character. But you need to have the ability to think outside the box. Could they have meant something other than what you thought they meant? Sometimes this phase takes me the longest. But once I put my anger aside long enough to realize the true meaning of the comment, its an easy transition to the last phase.
PHASE 4 – Butt in chair (Revise!)
Once I get through the first 3 phase, phase 4 is like heaven. Luckily I’m the fix-it queen. Once I know the problem, I can hunker down and get it fixed. Life is GOOD! (Well, until the next critique hits the ol’ inbox throwing me back to phase 1 again).
You’re not going to agree with every critique. I’ve gotten a few that I just flat-out didn’t get through phase 3 with, and I’m OK with that. I know I’m not going to agree with everyone. The bottom line is that its YOUR book and you need to make the changes YOU feel comfortable with. Wait, another email? THAT’S why the hubster went down in the basement to drum. Smart man.