Thursday, May 30, 2013

This Weird Thing Happened & My Thoughts On Critiques

Yesterday I was driving to pick up my son from school and there was a crowd to one side of the street.  I slowed down and saw a young woman lying half in the road, her leg, arms, and belly all bloody with what looked like road rash.

From my vantage point it seemed like she'd taken a nasty spill off her bike.  She looked like she was a teenager, around 16 or so.  As I mentioned, there was a little crowd around her, several teenage boys, a couple of girls, and a woman.  The woman was bent over her and I rolled my window down and talked to one of the boys I knew to ask what happened.  The woman jerked her head up and said, "We got this."

She seemed really annoyed when I mentioned that maybe someone should call 911 and I was again told "we got this."  I drove slowly away, but the look of pain on that girl's face stayed with me, so I took out my phone and called 911.  I told the operator everything I'd seen and she said she'd send medical help.

At first I felt upset for the girl, then I thought the angry woman would be even more mad I'd called 911 when she said she had things in hand, and then I just hoped the girl got the help she needed no matter who provided it.

Not to take anyone's pain lightly, but sometimes I think we're like that with our manuscripts.  They're obviously bleeding and in need of help, but we don't want help for whatever reason and tell everyone we've got it.

People may offer help to us, but we sometimes feel defensive and angry.  I think we're always grateful when help comes, though, if we're open enough to accept it.  It's just getting to that point where we can see the offers of help as something that will make us better, and not a commentary on any perceived shortcomings on our part.  Most people want to help our manuscripts improve and while it may sting at first to read the critique, if we can sleep on it, generally it seems better in the morning and we can dig in to fix the problems.

What do you think?  Are you more like the angry woman or the one who called 911?


KaseyQ said...

I’m a 911 person! Sending anything I write out into the world without another set of eyes on it first is like letting my 3-year-old dress herself for church and not checking to see what she looks like before we arrive. Whenever I am open to critiques, my work is ALWAYS better because of it. Can’t live without them!

Julie Coulter Bellon said...

Kasey, that is so good for an author. Sometimes I think I'm a mix of the two--the angry woman and the 911 woman, just depending on the manuscript and the day. Haha! (And I totally know what you mean about the three year old thing. Too true!)

Debra Erfert said...

Okay, this is a interesting question. If I was driving by that injured girl and saw she was surrounded by a group of ordinary people, gawking, looking like they didn't know what they were doing, then I would whip out my cell phone and dial 911 faster than a white tornado!

But! If I drove by that same girl and she was surrounded by a group of men and women with jump-bags open with first-aide supplies, already giving her treatment, then I would be relieved and not say a thing.

I am open to critiques--No, really! Sometimes it's hard to change something that I have grown to love after I've been told it doesn't work for various logical reasons, but I'm not stupid. I'd rather have a selling book than be stubborn and keep the parts that need to be reworked.

You're right about sleeping on the critiques. I suggest that you never--ever respond to a critique the same day your receive it. Your emotions are running high at that time, and won't be thinking logically. Mulling over that critique overnight is absolutely necessary. That's when your creative mind will let your thoughts wander in the new directions your story may need to go. I am sooooo grateful for the people willing to read and critique my manuscripts, and their honesty. They are my heroes.

Julie Coulter Bellon said...

Debra, I think you're right, it depends on the situation. For example, one editor I had wanted me to change something (my hero and heroine were eating an omelet in a safehouse before they went to the big showdown with the villain) and she thought an omelet wasn't romantic enough. I really wanted to keep that in because, to me, any food can be romantic food, and plus, I didn't think what they ate truly mattered to the story anyway, and I wanted the omelet to stay. So, depending on the situation, maybe you do have it and don't need paramedics, like you're saying, it all depends on the circumstances. Does that make sense?

C. Michelle Jefferies said...

When I was a beginning writer I was the angry woman. I was so defensive thinking I was a better writer than I am.

Now that I checked my ego at the door, I am the one calling for help. I recognize my issues and accept help.

Melanie Conklin said...

One of the most anxious moments for me is when I hit "send" on a critique. You never know how the author is going to respond to your earnest feedback. I crave straight talk, and when readers love my story too much I worry and get another reader!!

Julie Coulter Bellon said...

Michelle, it makes a big difference, doesn't it?

Melanie, that's how I feel. I don't want to offend people, but I do want to help them improve. It's a tough balance.

Gina said...

I once called 911 when I saw someone in a similar situation. The guy insisted he didn't need medical attention, he was fine, etc. He was obviously injured, so I called 911.

When emergency personnel arrived, it was discovered that the man was an illegal immigrant. After being patched up at the hospital, he would be deported.

He REALLY didn't want the medical help.

Jon Spell said...

I am definitely more like an angry woman. Those of you who have met me can attest to this. ;)