Thank you, sir, may I have another? He grunts with every stroke of the paddle.
I’m at that stage now with LET IT BREATHE. I follow the same process each time, with critique partners nailing me from all sides before I polish and send the manuscript to the beta readers. After that, it goes to my agent, then my editor, and eventually off to copy editors.
Then there’s the stage I haven’t reached yet where readers and book reviewers start taking whacks at me. I swear my butt stings each time I see August 2011 on a calendar.
I have pretty thick skin, which is one reason I’ve built such a regimented critique process involving so many players. I want constructive criticism. It’s what I rely on to improve and grow as a writer.
But I’d be a lying sack of camel feces if I said it didn’t sting.
I’d also be lying if I told you I didn’t open a critique partner’s email Saturday night and wince at every splotch of red text on the page. My first instinct is to get defensive – clearly she misunderstood that scene or just didn’t "get" my heroine.
But even as those thoughts stew in the back of my mind, the first words I fire off in a reply email are always the same.
Thank you sooooooo much!
Then I follow up by saying what I found most helpful. I do this even as my backside stings from the paddle lashes and the snarly creature in the back of my brain pouts and sulks.
Several months ago, I judged a writing contest. Though judges were encouraged to write comments, I suspect the organizers didn’t expect the sea of ink I spewed onto some of the entries. I always balanced negative feedback with positive, but there was one entry in particular that took some hard hits. I debated whether to do it, but in the end, decided someone had to be straight with the writer about some big plot problems and issues with characterization.
I winced as I hit send, and then forgot about it until a month later when a contest organizer forwarded me a note from the writer. I braced myself for defensive anger.
What I got was thanks. Thanks for my time, my attention to detail, and my elaborate feedback.
The writer had nothing to gain from sending that note. Judges are anonymous, as are the contest entries. We could have sat naked together in the steam room at the gym and never recognized one another.
But that note made my week. Not only that, it made me a lot more likely to give thorough feedback the next time I judge a contest.
It’s easy for writers to get caught up in their own angst about feedback on our babies, but we have to remember the person offering it is putting herself out there, too. It’s nice to know your input has merit. It's nice to know your efforts mean something to someone.
Do you try to thank people for their feedback even if it’s not what you want to hear? Is it tough to type thank you even as your butt stings from the lashes? Please share.
I have to get ready for the next round of spanking.