Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Post Critique Freak

As part of the conference I attended recently, I had my latest picture book manuscript critiqued by an editor. Here’s how it went:

I ripped open the envelope as soon as I got to the car, but quickly stuffed it back in the envelope. I did need to drive home. If it was all bad, I’d either be a wreck - or cause one. This would also be bad.

Once at home, I glanced at the cover letter. I noticed that the “Areas needing attention” section was five times as long as “Overall strengths” section, and I immediately burst into tears. What? That’s not the appropriate response? It was a long day.

When I could again see straight, I did the next logical thing: I decided to scan the editor’s nicely printed letterhead for typos. Very mature. I mean, who does that? But whaddya know! Success! I did find a typo, right there in her web address. Ha! I immediately felt better. It’s not that I find pleasure in the mistakes of others. I was just relieved to have a reminder that no one is infallible.

Armed with this typo, I decided I was ready to actually read the “Areas needing attention”. Maybe it wouldn’t be so bad.

It was bad enough. Now it was time to run through the house wailing for chocolate, because I know that stuffing myself with brownies is the solution to working out problems in a manuscript.

After picking brownie crumbs off my sweater – and eating them – and spitting out the lint – I thought it was time to take another good hard look at my critique. There had to be some positive things I could get out of it. And this is what I came up with:

A paper clip shaped like a doggie treat! Okay, that made me feel better, and I even started feeling a little guilty for being gleeful about the editor’s typo. But my second and most important discovery…

No matter what, you are never too old to get smiley faces on your paper.


PJ Hoover said...

Smiley faces make everyone feel better! And the paper clip is DARLING!

Green Girl in Wisconsin said...

But did they suggest ideas for how to fix it? That's really what's most helpful. Ah, the critique--isn't that the worst part of it?

I've tagged you for when you need blog fodder.

ICQB said...

Maybe there's a niche market for a line of post-critique brownies and ice cream. I'd buy stock.

But I think the editor hit the nail on the head with the smiley-face comments. "Nice images," and, "Cute and clever," are things that pop into my head whenever I visit your blog, only with even more enthusiasm : )

After any kind of critique - critique group, conference critique, critque circle - my immediate reaction to everything is, "This person/these people is/are absolutely crazy!" (unless nice things are said, and then everyone is perfectly sane)

I always have to put the comments aside for a while and let them ruminate before I can decide which ones are valuable and which ones really are crazy.

But once I got a bad critique-er. I paid my 35 bucks and got a squiggly line next to one paragraph and an underlined word and a lot of, "Hmm, I don't know... I don't know..." during the 15 minute face-to-face with her. That really was crazy.

And anyway,hooray for having the chutzpah to lay your work on the line - it takes guts! (and a few brownies)

Rebecca Ramsey said...

I'm all for brownies, any time.

Having work critiqued is SO nerve wracking. Especially by a professional. I get freaked out just sending my work to my friends to read, but when I'm waiting for my agent to email me back what he thinks about a work in progress? DAILY Hyperventilation. (Who am I kidding...HOURLY, or even every minute!) I get carpal tunnel from checking my email so often!

The list of things to work on is ALWAYS longer than the strengths, because I asked for helpful advice, right? Constructive criticism is so much more helpful than I LOVE IT!!! But gosh, we need smiley faces too!

I live for other people's typos in critiques. My poor little ego does a dance every time!

adrienne said...

PJ - Yeah, I have to trust someone with a doggie treat paper clip!

Green Girl - She did give some good suggestions...mostly hints. It's up to me to solve the puzzle :)

ICQB - I've heard those critiques can be a gamble - luckily mine was read by a thoughtful editor that gave good advice (and smiley faces). It just takes me a while to digest these things...brownies help, of course.

Becky - So true...I needed the advice and was thankful to get it. I don't even mind the challenge so much - it's the time investment that freaks me out a little. I so want to get something finished!
And I'm relieved to hear I'm not the only typo junkie ;)

Kim Kasch said...

I love the editor's "P" person and the squiggly smiley-faced worm. She must have liked a lot of stuff to be so inspired herself/himself.

And 'way-to-go' being brave with your babes.

Kelly said...

Any smiley face must make the critique more bearable! Have you started your revisions? I'm kicking myself for not getting a critique at my last conference!
I had to giggle at your brownie crumb eating, sounds like something I would do!

Keri Mikulski said...

Yay for smiley faces! :)

Best of luck with the revisions. :)

Bish Denham said...

Ah yes....Smiley faces, the gold star award for weary writers.

And, we must remember (no matter WHO does the critique)that opinions are like belly buttons everybody has at least one!

LW said...

Yeah for smiley faces!

Keep at it; I am looking so forward to my first autograph copy of your first book.
And as far as time invested I have this saying “I would rather be in the middle of something
wonderful then at the end of nothing…”


adrienne said...

Kim - I like her squiggles, too - they remind me of a Miro painting :)

Kelly - I have started revising...I think it's better already, so the experience was certainly worth it...

Keri - :)

Bish - Thanks for that amusing) reminder!

Louise - I love that saying! I'll have to post that where I'll see it often. And I'd love to have the chance to sign that book ;)

Carrie Harris said...

Oh, I hear you. I think there's space for pre and post-critique support groups. I'd like to join one. I promise to bring the brownies.

I'm glad you found some points of light in there, and I'm sure that they're well deserved, because you're clearly very talented. Just ask me. ;)

Brenda said...

First, any kind of chocolate can take care of just about anything...

Second, smiley faces run a close secnod behind the chocolate...grin..

Anne Spollen said...

Hershey's Bliss, the entire bag, is an excellent solution for all sorts of revisionist problems.

I have tested this many times, and am now the owner of "Bliss pants" that have an elastic waist.

C.R. Evers said...

LOL! YOu crack me up!

Sorry you were discouraged at first, but she did write some very nice things. And a doggie paper clip! That's priceless! :0)


Mary Witzl said...

Thıs made me laugh too. I'll be sure to come and read it again after my next critique. The first glimpse is always a nasty shock, then the stuff that comes after it -- and revisiting it too, of course. Thank God for chocolate. And other people's typos are great, but their infelicities are even better. I'm sure I'd be published by now if I enjoyed constructive criticism even better -- or learned how to use it to my own advantage.

Love that dog-treat paper clip!

Rena said...

OMG -- don't make me laugh. I've been sick and everytime I laugh I start coughing. You had me at the typos, but I was in hysterics by the time you got to the brownies.

You poor thing. I hope you're feeling better now.