Monday, May 9, 2011

Week 'o' Critique, Part 1: The 14 Stages of Critique Acceptance

1. Anticipation

“Critique is finally here! Oh yesh oh yesh oh yesh.”

2. Dread

“Wait a second. What if Critiquer thought my manuscript was A CHEESY OVERWRITTEN TRAINWRECK and was pretty much just embarrassed for me?”

*bites fingernails, hovers mouse over critique document without opening it*

3. Elation

*scans first few lines of critique. notices words like “heart-wrenching” and “brilliant.”*

“Oh yesh oh yesh oh yesh. I am a pretty bird. Oh yesh oh yesh oh yesh.”

4. Dread

*skims down a little further to the body of the critique. starts noticing words like “confusing” and “unconvincing”*

5. Panic

*starts skimming faster. notices words like “cut” and “rewrite.”*

6. Paralysis

*sits at computer. gazes blankly at screen. for six and a half hours.*

7. Avoidance

"Critique? What critique?"

*bakes lots of cookies, goes for walks.*

8. Rededication

*sits down at computer. stares at critique. stares at manuscript. plays Eye of the Tiger on iTunes.*

9. Grim determination

*cuts hard-won chapters. rewrites scenes. finally gives in and starts book in a different place just like beta readers were saying all along.*

10. Surprise

*sits up in her chair and realizes that manuscript is actually getting better. a lot better. like, whoa.*

11. Second-guessing

*wonders if this feeling of great betterness is all in her head. wonders if all she’s doing is making things worse. wonders if maybe old beginning was better after all. bites fingernails.*

12. Wonder

pushes through doubts and keeps revising. starts to realize that the betterness is no illusion. starts to wonder how she ever thought her manuscript was publication-ready before.

13. Dread

sends revised manuscript to agent/critique partner/friend. lies awake in bed worrying that manuscript is still a cheesy overwritten trainwreck and agent/critique partner/friend will think she is some kind of hopeless case.

14. Elation

gets e-mail back from agent/critique partner/friend. a/c/f loves new ms and thinks it’s ready.

“Oh yesh oh yesh oh yesh. Oh yesh oh yesh oh yesh.”


INTERN wants to know: Have you ever gotten a critique or revision letter from your agent or writing partner? Which stage of critique acceptance are you at right now?


  1. Oh, if only step 14 could come faster. I just finished a huge revision and I'm still waiting to hear back from my agent. I'm guessing that I'll probably be skipping step 14 and I might have to start over at step 1 again.
    Thanks for the great posts Intern! I'm new to your blog and I LOVE it!!

  2. *looks at the 14 stages* *looks at WIP* *shudders* *asks herself why she's even bothering* *sits in deep blue funk* *gets cup of coffee* *squares shoulders and dives in again* Thanks for the warning. ;)
    Suzanne Lucero

  3. I muddled the steps a little, INTERN! I missed 6, 7, and 8 entirely, went straight into revision in a fit of delight, and while I haven't finished the edit, I have no indication of 11 or 12 showing up. 13 will probably just be me going "OH MAH GAH OH MAH GAH OH MAH GAH" until I hear back from my reader. <3


  4. You forgot step 5a, Disgust. "They're right, I need to fix a, b, c, and the whole damn alphabet. This is utter crap. What do I think I'm doing?"

    At this point, though, I'm on #9, emphasis on grim determination.

  5. Oh, how true this is! My parents (academic writers both) call it the I am a genius/I can't write anything but cr-- dichotomy. Great post!

  6. Stage 6. Paralysis.

    I have been pulled up on character consistency for the first time ever and am at a loss as to what to do to fix that. For now, choosing to concentrate on University, which means I am still writing, just not that novel. Can't write that novel. Too hard basket.

    Do you have a post about character consistency? Would you make one?

  7. So true. From my few experiences with critique. Wish I had more! I'm in a stage you didn't mention - looking for the right people to deliver critique who are willing to commit to work together. Urgh!

  8. I'm in between Rededication and Grim Determination, at least in the process of revising my first novel (which is the one currently being critiqued by my novel-writing workshop).

    I manage to avoid paralysis by simply working on my new manuscript. And, in the process, conveniently ignoring all that Grim Determination I stocked up on in the fridge. It was a Manager's Special and has probably gone bad by now anyway.

  9. I keep reading "rededication" as "redaction." Says something about my state of mind.

  10. I think I keep bouncing between 4, 5 and 6....

  11. Elimy: tell INTERN more about this character consistency conundrum—do you mean a case where your character seems to flipflop between different personalities/worldviews?

    INTERN will start thinking about a post!

  12. vmichelle: that stage should be called "unrequited critiquership"

    try posting for a critique partner on Absolute Write if you haven't already!

  13. My writing partner and I have seen each other's first drafts and are now emailing each other each chapter as we edit it.

    So I'm basically going through all the steps above on a regular basis. Painful, but the manuscript is coming out so much better for all my friend's comments!

  14. LOL, you NAILED the stages! I'm in the first draft stage of my WIP so I'm not in any of those phases yet. But when I am? My CPs are suuuuper thorough (and I love it) so it usually takes me a hot minute before opening what they send back. And a glass of wine. Or two.

    Or a bottle. Yes, a bottle *really* helps with numbers 2,4,6,7,11&13 :)


  15. Stage 0: Waiting.

    I have a new book with three betas at the moment. One of them is deeply (and clinically) depressed and often sees absolutely nothing positive in an entire MS. . . but he spots ALL the mistakes, so he's invaluable.

    *quivering in fear*

    Louise Curtis

  16. @twittertales: Ah yes, the feared and yet precious Eeyore CP.

  17. Step 14! I finally got a critique that had been sitting in my inbox for the past 3 months. I like to chill in step 7 for a LONG time.

  18. Oh Intern, it's like you live in my head. (Side note: I am very, very sorry.) I have three critique partners right now, which means I get THREE LETTERS for each section. That's three times the dread, three times the paralysis, three times the second guessing...

    *hyperventilates just thinking about it*

    Once I get past the panic, I realize that means I have three chances to make my manuscript absolutely amazing. Plus, in the end I get three emails telling me I've finally nailed it. So I guess it balances out.

  19. Sigh! So true, so true!

    I have a strategy: I wait until I have all the critiques back and then I go through them all page by page, together. That way I have a lovely chorus of voices on every segment, and if two people say the same thing, I just HAVE to accept it immediately.

    As for my pride/emotions, I've found that one compliment outweighs five complaints. I'll keep trudging through, looking for those gems ... those little smiley faces in the margins!

  20. tamarapaulin: re: "I've found that one compliment outweighs five complaints"

    that's wonderful! so many people have the opposite ratio (one bad review has more psychological weight than 30 good ones, etc etc)

    it's also a good reminder to spread out positive comments instead of stacking them all at the top.

  21. I'm soundly settled in stage 6. i heard back from my agent on Tuesday that the WIP that i was positive was both submission ready and ready to change the entire YA market (and my day job world), other than voice, is only ready to be reworked in almost ever single way. oomph.

    so glad you posted this. it was beginning to feel like the back of my wrist might never leave my forehead.

    i had parents for a visit to help with stage 7 this weekend. i've posted inspiring videos on my blog (seriously, have you seen that scottish bike dude?) which i'm hoping will spur on stage 8 early this week.

    from similar past experiences, i know the other stages exist. i just hope they come soon. thanks again, great post!