Erika Wassall, the Jersey Farm Scribe here with…
FULL DISCLOSURE – Dealing with a Rejecting Critique
This past Friday the 31st, on Halloween, I had a fright like no ghost or goblin costume could compare to.
My first page critique of Daddy, What’s A Redneck! (see it here)
The full manuscript is a touching story of a father who finds himself surprisingly stumped on how to explain the history and pride of an important piece of his family’s culture. He explains the actual origin of the term, the ingenuity, fun-loving and family-oriented traditions that mean so much to him. Little Lainey’s excitement grows as she learns not only about a term and a family, but about herself.
Suffice it to say: Liza was not a fan.
My first response was the famous kneejerk: “I’m NEVER writing ANYthing EVER again,” supported by the ever-popular: “What’s the point??” and the sister thought: “What does SHE know anyway?”
To be honest, I clicked off the site, without even reading the critique in full. Said nothing to anyone. Ignored it. Told myself it didn’t matter.
But, I am proud to say that it wasn’t long before I took a deep breath and tried to take a more realistic look at what was happening.
Okay. So an agent had read my work, and not liked it.
Ummm…. that’s NOT new!!! I’ve had agents turn my work down before. Even successful authors get rejected.
I decided I would go back to Kathy’s site and read Liza’s comments in full, THREE TIMES before the NJ SCBWI event the next day.
The first time I read them, they made me angry. I disagreed with EVERY word, and rolled my eyes at LEAST half a dozen times.
“She just doesn’t GET it.”
A few hours passed.
The second read, I saw where she coming from with. I shrugged a few times where I had previously crinkled my nose and shook my head. I reminded myself that while my usual writing is exceedingly kid-centric, this manuscript in particular is not mainstream-minded.
I reminded myself of three things: (1) writing is an art, not a science (2) her critique was for MY benefit, she got nothing out of this (3) as a successful agent, she knows much more than I, (and that’s a fact, not an insult).
The next morning, I read it a third time. This time, I saw real value in her comments. She mentions a lack of motivation. WHY is the little girl asking the question in the first place?
Huh…. I guess that could set the stage a bit better….
She mentions the title not properly representing the story itself, that people may even be insulted and not read it.
My “darling” cried out to me to be saved…. But I LOVE the title… I crafted it with certain connotations, liking the idea of that it was counter-balanced by a story of love and honor.
But … um… HELLO??!!! They have to READ the story to know that. If they see the title and turn away, the power of the irony is useless.
By the time I left for the SCBWI event, I no longer felt that dejected combination of anger and self-doubt. After all, as I’ve said myself, rejections are PROOF that I’m a writer!
I’ll be completely honest that I still do not agree with all of her comments. And that’s okay too. It is an earnest somewhat “issue” driven story, which while not something everyone is looking for, can have its place.
But even the comments I may not fully agree with have given me insight into my writing. Some of them I found may even apply to other manuscripts or projects I’m working on.
This week, when I sat down to write my post, fueled by amazing speakers, and an afternoon of great workshops at the SCBWI craft day, including a chance to see my dream editor Amy Cloud (I just genuinely enjoy her personality), I wrote the opening paragraph to three different articles. None of them worked.
I looked over my notes from the workshops. Nothing felt right.
I looked at Kathy’s site, as I often do, and it hit me. I had a chance to write about dealing with critique in a very unique, painfully honest way.
So a big thank you to Kathy for the opportunity. And a genuinely GIANT thank you to Liza for helping me grow as a writer, and realistically, probably also as a person.
And to you… I give a heart-felt thanks for indulging me by reading my story. It has immeasurably solidified for me the importance of not only accepting but also truly embracing critique in order to allow for growth.
Because you know what? Our manuscripts are worth it.
Erika, what can I say other than thank you for giving us another great post. I think we all have experienced this, so I hope others will take note of how you dealt with the angst of a negative critique and benefit from your reaction and journey.