How to Accept Criticism with a Smile
Today I submitted the first chapter of my book to a critiquing group called "Destructive Readers" on reddit.com. I've read some of the harsh, no-nonsense critiques they give, and I was nervous about what they would say about my debut novel. Since it's still very much a work-in-progress, I expected it to be bad, and it was.
But not as bad as many of the others I have seen. I was worried that their words would cut me like a knife and bring tears to my eyes. My book is like my baby, and hearing anything negative causes me to get defensive. Thankfully, it wasn't that bad. I didn't cry, nor did I get my feelings hurt. The main reason for this is that once someone pointed out the mistakes I couldn't see, I IMMEDIATELY saw them. They weren't being mean, they were being honest. My novel still needs work, but that's normal. It's basically still a draft, since all I did in my first revision was fix the spelling and grammar errors. I needed people to help me see my work for what it was. Unfortunately they only critiqued the first chapter, so I still have a lot of mistakes to find and fix.
- Even though I tried to avoid it, I still slipped into the passive voice on occasion.
- I am very guilty of "info-dumping." This is probably not as big of an issue later on, but early in the book I did it a lot. I need to find more creative ways to work information into the story.
- Plot holes. There aren't many, and they really just need to be explained more clearly, but there are a couple small things to fix. I'm considering switching the first and second chapter to fix this issue. The second chapter is a flashback, and it explains a lot of what goes unsaid in the first chapter. This will also help me avoid the info-dump method.
- Use more interesting words to describe action. Some of my writing is a little dry or weakly worded, and can use some sprucing up.
- Minor issues like unnecessary words, cliches, extra commas or not enough commas, etc.
- The plot and premise were generally well-liked.
- There were no big spelling or grammar issues.
- It was easy to follow and understand.
- The characters were approved of.
- One critique said it was like "After Earth" but better. It may have been a flop, but it was still made into a movie, so that's something.
- No one was mean, and everyone said that I really have something here, and that they are interested to see where it goes.
I've also had two beta-readers that are in my target audience finish the entire story. They both loved the story and cried at the end, and said that they didn't want the story to end and couldn't wait for the sequel. I can't describe how happy I feel right now. I've written a book. People have read it. People have liked it. I had a client at work say that they want to buy it as soon as I publish it. This is my life! I have a lot of hard work ahead of me, but it's very enjoyable, and I've never been happier! Thanks again to everyone who is helping me accomplish my dreams!
Libbi Duncan, The Cornucopia Woman