Saturday, 2 January 2010

What to do with critiques - part two

So, as promised, here I am again, doing the soon-to-be-regarded-as-regular weekend blog.

Two per cent of the way through the year. Only another 49 topics to think of!

Last time, I discussed the composition of the panel of readers/critiquers to whom we send our beloved manuscripts.

Then, while waiting for the replies, we got on doing something else.

Replies start trickling in during the allotted time. Do we read them straight away, see what they have to say about our baby?

No, first we reply to the emails, thanking the respondents for their efforts and promising to get back to them when we've had a chance to digest their comments.

Well, yes, of course we read them. It's only natural to want to know immediately what people think about our work, isn't it?

But really, there's no reason why we should. We have, at least temporarily, abandoned that work and are fully committed to whatever we're doing right now. So, being wise, we create a new folder on our hard drive and put the attachments (Word documents doubtless covered in metaphorical red ink) in the folder, along with the original.

The deadline for replies draws near. We scan the inbox with increasing frequency (and desperation.) We asked ten people to read the work and only two have replied so far. What's going on?

Human nature, that's what.

You'll get another five or six replies in the last couple of days.

OK, we have all the replies we're going to get, so what next?

Scan through each of the revised manuscripts first, just to get a flavour for what the reviewers are saying. It's traditional to put closing comments at the end, so if you want to end the suspense quickly, skip to the end of each document and read what their overall take on the book was.

Take a moment to bask in a warm, fuzzy feeling of adulation. Alternatively, storm out of your writing room, kick the cat, pour yourself a stiff drink and give vent to your feelings about the reader's dubious ancestry, under-performing neurons and myopic inability to recognise talent if it got up and bit them on the ass. Perhaps even do both. You'll likely get a mixture of good, lukewarm and critical comments.

Well, what did you expect? You knew from the start that not everyone was going to like your sacrilegious, splatterpunk rewrite of The Red Shoes.

Didn't you?

Think again. No matter how good your writing, not everyone is going to like it. People's minds don't work the same. What, to some, is an exquisite heightening of tension is, to others, tedious and drawn-out. Your sparse, elegant prose may seem to some to be under-descriptive.

Never mind. The real work starts next. This is where we collate the responses in the easiest way I've so far discovered.

Next week...

See? Heightening the tension even more.

Till then, enjoy!


  1. Good stuff, Paul, your brain gets bigger every year.

  2. This really is helpful! Thanks again Paul.