Dawn Colclasure's Blog

Author and poet Dawn Colclasure

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Handling crits

I have written here before about critters. I think I should now talk about the other side of this coin: Handling critiques.

I’m not going to step on any soapbox here. A handful of my friends know that I’d sure be tempted to, in light of recent events. But I’m not going to do that. I’m not going to let my emotions get the better of me or resort to sassying anyone behind their back because that’s just not a professional attitude.

And, really, you really need to have a professional attitude no matter what kind of writer you are. Even famous writers who cop the “bigheaded ego” attitude are frowned upon. And if you are a beginning, unpublished writer, you DEFINITELY need to adopt a professional attitude when interacting with others in a professional capacity (read: editors).

Why is it so important to be professional? Because, for one thing, people talk. Editors, agents, publishers and, yes, even mentors, all talk about clients and querying writers. They may not remember the name of every single writer they come into contact with, but they WILL remember the name of the writer who blew up at them over a rejection or some kind of critique.

Second, acting professionally shows you are a serious writer. It’s not enough just to query an agent or revise your manuscript for the nth time. You’ve got to put on a professional attitude when you are working with the big guys. They are professional with each other. If you go storming into an editor’s office complaining about revisions they want you to make or giving an editor the most hostile phone call of your life over their crits, you’re not going to be viewed as a professional writer. Or even a serious writer, at that. Part of being a serious writer is acting professionally. It’s you showing them you can handle their suggestions. You’re serious enough to make your work just right for the reading public.

Finally, it’s just a matter of showing a little respect. They are taking the time to read your work, out of ALL the other piles of work cramming for their attention. They are taking the time to respond to YOU. And, in almost every single case, they’re doing ALL of that FOR FREE. Yes, I know editors aren’t being paid to offer crits on work they’re rejecting or even offer some advice. (Is it any wonder why they rarely do??) Nobody is putting a gun to their head to do any of this, but YOU could have been turned down by them up front. They could’ve said, “Well, I’m too busy right now to offer any crits” or “I’m sorry, but my plate is too full to help you out.” But they didn’t. They are doing you this favor. And you’re not doing THEM any favors by acting all huffy and childish when they make suggestions you don’t agree with. If you are using an editing service where you are paying for this kind of work, you also stand a good chance of having your contract cancelled if you throw a fit over editing suggestions.

If you’re going to throw a tantrum over editing suggestions, do so PRIVATELY. If you need to blow off some steam, wring your hands about how the editor just doesn’t get it or storm around the room mumbling that those revision requests just aren’t doable, then PLEASE do yourself, and your writing career, a very big favor: Keep ALL of that to yourself. If you need a shoulder to cry on, find somebody else. If you need to blow up about a “stupid writing rule,” do so with someone else. If you need to do some soul-searching or problem-solving on how to accept and use these crits, then write it all out in a journal or go meditate in the woods. Just make sure you keep the editor out of it. Please.