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  • Writer's pictureSuzie Anne

A Wound From a Friend

Updated: Jan 6

“Well . . . it’s all right,” is a phrase no one wants to hear. Especially not when you’ve just shared something you created, whether it’s a drawing, a song, or your writing. But we all need to hear those words sometimes; more often than we’d like, if we’re honest.

In the arts world, criticism is a given. Everyone has an opinion, and whenever something new is presented to us, we automatically evaluate it. Both subjectively, asking do I like it, does it capture my interest, and what does it give me, and objectively, looking at the quality of the art, looking for mistakes, and comparing its salability to similar works already on the market.

My first experience with criticism of my writing, after choosing to become an author and work towards being published, was before a small writing conference. The author hosting and teaching at the conference, Lynette Eason, allowed each attendee to submit the first five pages of their WIP (work in progress) for a critique.

I eagerly sent mine off, then continued writing—by hand—several more chapters. By the time I received her critique, I had around 13,000 words written. I was proud of myself, both for having written that much, which I didn’t think I could do, and because I thought it was pretty good. Maybe even great. And then I opened the bleeding document that contained the critique. My words. A part of myself, laid out for someone else to see. To judge.

The critique was actually done very nicely, but as anyone who’s had to submit something for evaluation knows, it’s not easy to learn that much of what you’ve written only slows the story down and makes it boring. An infodump of backstory. But the words were written encouragingly, with a clear intent to teach, not harm. My ideas weren’t bashed, they were redirected and refined.

The edits I made, and the things I needed to discard, changed the course of the story. Very few of those first 13,000 words are included in my current WIP. I learned, through the critique and the classes at the conference, that much of what I’d written wasn’t good storytelling. But it did lay the foundation for me to re-write the story because I’d already gotten to know the characters some, learning more about who they are and what the important moments of their lives were. And the story is so much better, because of that first critique.

I joined a critique group after that, and though they found things like grammar mistakes and repeated words, none of them commented on things like character development and showing vs. telling. It was nice to have other authors comment on easily fixable mistakes, things that are easy to overlook when you’ve read the words multiple times. But it was frustrating too.

After my first couple critiques from people established in the industry, I knew that while I’m a solid writer, I had a lot to learn. I still do. And the lack of critique on my writing mechanics wasn’t helping me learn. But, being an imperfect and busy human, I allowed myself to be lulled into believing I’d improved to the point where I was catching those mistakes. So when I joined another critique group, more specific to my genre, and they started pointing those out…I wrote the critiques off.

Attending the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference and receiving feedback from faculty in the industry helped me to reevaluate the critiques I’d written off. After reminding myself of what my goals in writing are, of what I wanted my characters to be, I realized that their critiques weren’t as inapplicable as I’d thought. They, being willing to give me a harsher critique, were helping me become a better writer. The wounds, once I reminded myself to not take them personally, were helpful and have made the story better.

This isn’t to say every critique they gave me, nor every critique the other authors gave me, is right. All critiques need to be filtered through the creator’s goals for making their project, the standards for the industry the person is working in, and many other things.

Not all critiques are correct, especially if the critic is less experienced in the industry. But, as Proverbs 26:7 says, “Faithful are the wounds of a friend; profuse are the kisses of an enemy.” (ESV) Next time you receive criticism, evaluate it before brushing it off. It might be wounding, but if it’s from a friend, chances are you can trust it.

God Bless and Keep magic in the mundane,

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