Stories Dripping Red

I’ve been critiquing alot this week and find that it is not always easy. Sometimes I don’t find much to offer and then other times, there are so many problems, I cannot figure out how to make it better. Usually I love the story and can see the potential it has, but I hate marking someone’s story in red.

There’s something about taking someone’s “baby” and telling them the baby needs work that makes my heart sad…and even a little fearful. Sometimes I think the baby is underdeveloped. It’s undernourished. It needs some vitamins to make it stronger. But to tell a parent that, well, it’s a frightful thing. I try to mix encouragement with the correction, but so often I fear that I have overdone it.

Don’t we want to know what is wrong with our “babies” so we can do everything in our power to help it grow? I think I do, but when I get my baby back all bleeding with red, I wonder. I sometimes feel rejected. Hopeless. I can’t be a mother to my story. Why was I thinking I can birth a story?

Then I eat some chocolate and I am alright. I fix my baby and keep praying over it, hoping with God’s grace it will fly the coop, finding a new home on someone’s bookshelf.

Do you writer’s out there have trouble critiquing other’s work? How do you balance the good and the bad?

****Winner of Lady In Waiting by Susan Meisnner is MAUREEN! Congratulations!****

15 responses to “Stories Dripping Red”

  1. Oh yes, I'm always worried my friends will hate me forever after I critique their work. But I like your chocolate solution. 🙂


  2. I'm an English teacher, so I spent a lot of time critiquing student work, particularly essays. I always (even when it's difficult ;)) write a kind comment at the top of the paper … I guess that's the teacher equivalent of eating chocolate.

    I am so hesitant to have my manuscript critiqued seriously (most of my friends have read it and loved it) for the reasons you mentioned … plying myself with chocolate might help 😉


  3. I like getting my work critiqued, even if it bleeds a lot of red. I feel that is how I learn and grow as a writer. We cannot always see what is in front of our noses, we are too close to our story. Of course, we also need a kind comment or two mixed in with the red, to encourage us.


  4. I go with the positive before the negative – soften the blow. But it isn't easy, you're right about that! Perhaps send chocolate with the critique? 😉


  5. I'm with Beth, I start with the positives. There is an art to staining up a story, and starting with what I loved is a good start.

    Don't we all want the good news before the bad?!


  6. Yes, I always worry, but I try to balance out the red with a lot of “I like this phrase,” or “cute!” or “Excellent sentence!”

    It's hard being a parent, and harder being the therapist, huh?


  7. I think it gets easier with time and with familiarity with your crit partners.

    The hardest for me are the contest entries, mostly because they run the gamut from great to … not quite ready for prime time. And the judging is blind, so there's no rapport and no dialogue to explain your comments later.


  8. I tend to go RED. With everyone. But it comes from a place of such passion – to help the story be all it can be. But I think, somtimes, especially when I don't have any rapport with who I'm critting…that I have to tone it down, lest I discourage. I don't want to discourage!

    I'm glad to have such awesome relationships with both my crit partners. We don't ahve to worry about offending anymore.


  9. I agree with Katie. I go red. If it's someone I don't know very well (and I belong to a large critique group where people come and go a lot), then I tend to just pick a couple of issues. However, ones I've known awhile will say that I can be pretty thorough, but always from a place of encouragement and desire to help.


  10. Sherrinda, I can't imagine you being anything but kind. I'm sure your CPs know that your comments are well-intentioned and appreciate your honesty as you strive to help them produce “healthy babies.”


  11. Congrats to Maureen!

    I find it hard critiquing other people's work. Much prayer goes into my remarks, and I try to speak the truth in love.

    Susan 🙂


  12. I only critique for my two crit buddies. I know them well and we all expect honest raw feedback. We dish it up and we take it. We've been at it awhile and through a couple of books and revisions, so no, I never fear that I have over done it. I say what's in my head to say. They know I am telling my truth as I see it, but it is only my opinion. They are, of course, free to reject it 🙂


  13. I would have a hard time critiquing another writer. I won't even write a review of a book unless I like it. I think it's easier for me to be on the other end. Yes, I want to know what my WIP needs, but I don't want to tell others.


  14. Weighing in late here, but it's such a great question. Yes I hate to go red for all the reasons you state, but my own reticence about it makes me question critiques that I receive back. What's the point of a critique if it's just to make you feel good.
    When my students do peer editing, I tell them to always find something they like and something that can be improved. It's just as important to know what we're doing well so we don't lose it.

    ((((hugs))))) I'm sure just the fact that you're concerned means you're gentle.


  15. All your comments are interesting. There is such diversity and I love all the perspectives. I think when you have a HUGE trust level with your critique partners, it is easier to let the red ink flow. When you are part of large pool, I think it is harder to do so. You just don't know them like you would someone you have developed a relationship with. Great thoughts everybody!


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