By Henry McLaughlin
Then we will no longer be immature like children. We won’t be tossed and blown about by every wind of new teaching. We will not be influenced when people try to trick us with lies so clever they sound like the truth. Ephesians 4:14 NLT
In my small group recently, we were discussing critiques. One member had submitted to the same national contest two years in a row. After the first year, she took the judges’ comments to heart and revised her manuscript. The second year, the judges’ were the exact opposite of the first year. It’s amazing sometimes how two people can read our work and give us contradictory advice.
Another of our members is an experienced writer, but new to writing fiction. A critiquer told her the first chapter had too much dialogue. Our member voiced she needed to rewrite the chapter. Turned out the critiquer didn’t write fiction or read very much fiction.
This paraphrase of Ephesians 4:14 came to mind. As writers, we will no longer be immature and insecure. We won’t be tossed and blown about by every wind of critique. We will not be influenced when people try to trick us into writing their way as the only way with rationalizations so clever they sound like rules and doctrine from on high.
We need faith in two things when we write.
One is faith in ourselves, in our writing, in knowing we are answering God’s call to write. Like spiritual faith, our writing faith is developed over time as we study the craft through attending workshops and conferences, through reading books on the craft, and through applying our faith by sitting down and writing. And rewriting. And rewriting.
The other area of faith is in discernment. We need to believe God gives wisdom and insights to judge potential critiquers and critique groups. We need to trust he will create divine appointments with the right mentors and coaches, with those who will teach, encourage, and further our growth as writers. We also need to have faith he will help us examine and weigh the critiques we receive, to separate the wheat from the chaff, to pick out what really helps our story and our craft and to cast aside the rest.
Someone once said the art of writing is putting the seat of the pants in the seat of the chair. And this is true. But before this comes another step: Putting the knees of the writer on the floor before God to ask his direction and plan. If we can’t do the physical act, we can all do the spiritual equivalent of time in meditation and prayer – quiet time with him.
How do you handle negative critiques?
Henry McLaughlin’s debut novel, Journey to Riverbend, won the 2009 Operation First Novel contest. He lives in North Texas where he serves as Associate Director of North Texas Christian Writers. Henry leads critique groups, and teaches at conferences and workshops. He enjoys mentoring and coaching individual writers.