Writing Past the Pain of Critique

It’s funny how fate plays a role in your writing sometimes.

Today,I woke up exhausted, my head thick with a fog that settled in after lack of sleep and a hangover.

Sleep deprivation was a result from spending two days home with a sick child. Prescribed certain medications, she becomes a toddler-on-the-move who’s stuck on fast forward and can’t even pause for bedtime. At 10:30 last night, her feet kicked up and out and down on the bed and her hands clapped and she whispered stories non stop.

The hangover came after a night of novel workshop with me and mine in the hot seat. Though the critique process worked well – the author sits quiet and listens while the readers discuss – the feedback weighed heavy against my chest when I finally fell asleep.

I’m a newbie, and I imagine first critiques always cut deep. So, I’m following Becky Levine’s advice, from her book, The Writing & Critique Group Survival Guide:

Most of our bad feelings don’t come from the words written on our manuscripts…or from the person who writes them. Instead they come from within ourselves. They reflect our own doubts about ourselves as writers – as skilled, creative craftspeople.

Be ready for [those feelings] to come, and, when they do, recognize and acknowledge them. Then, get to work (p. 242).

I decided to pushthose critiques to the side for the day and to tackle Wednesday’s Word.

And, funny enough, the word that rolled out from Wordsmith.org this morning was bayonet — a call to arms, an insistence to fight, a subtle reminder that this is where the rubber meets the road, missy.

Critique or no critique, get writing.

So, here goes. Read at your own risk. And, if you’re feeling feisty, put a link to your version of how the word-of-the-day’s call to action translates into your writing. Camaraderie is always a good thing.


They were back, the whole lot of them.

Phi Delts, from the frat house down the block, stormed into the bar as soon as she unlocked the door that morning. They slurred on and on about another 24 hour party, chanting rugby cheers and demanding multiple rounds of Bloody Marys.

She stood behind the counter and emptied bottles into glasses like she worked on an assembly line.

They harassed her and called her a hard ass when she tried to measure the vodka and told her to “lighten up.”

The one with the U of M baseball cap and stubble leaned over the bar, grabbed her hand, kissed it, and then begged for “three more of those plump…green…olives.” She jerked her hand away.

She picked up a cocktail sword and stabbed three times into the dish with the habanero stuffed olives. She held them up close to his face and smiled.

“Here you go, Mr. Rugby.” Then, she excused herself and walked calmly to the restroom.

She barely heard him over the noise of the hand dryer as he coughed and sneezed and pleaded for water.



15 responses to “Writing Past the Pain of Critique

  1. LOL … stab, stab, stab. Critique never gets any easier in my opinion. Lord knows, I’ve blogged about post-critique syndrome often enough. Take what you need to, let the rest go. And yes, you are your own worst critic.

  2. If you understand the difference between editing and critique, there won’t be much pain or pressure to write past.

    Here’s an analysis of story structure which can be applied to your work to find flaws that can be fixed without changing what you intended to say so drastically that it hurts.


    And here’s a way to think about all that in images rather than words.


    Jacqueline Lichtenberg

    • Jacqueline, Thanks for stopping by and leaving these links. I’ll take a look at them; character development is one area I will need to take a look at in the next few days.

  3. Hey, I’m a student the University of Michigan (Not sure if that’s the U of M mentioned in your bit) and have been writing for a few years now.

    I’m just now trying to push into longer works. Because of finals, I’ve been pressed for time to write. Yet, I still have some stuff in the works.

    I was wondering if you could take a look at it — tell me what you think. It’s only 4 parts right now, but feel free to rip it to pieces.

    First part is found here: http://myfictionarchive.wordpress.com/2010/04/13/no-direction-part-1/

    I’m writing one part at a time, almost like a TV show. Again, trying to stretch a story into novel lengths.

    Take care!

    • Tom, Thanks for visiting and commenting – and for your confidence in my critique skills. I’m new to writing novels as well, but I’m happy to take a peek at what you have so far.

      Also, I offer a couple of links on my Writers’ Resources that might be helpful in your process.

      As for crunched time, I know that feeling. And, no offense to U of M…my muse made me write it.

  4. Christi, your blogs about my book make me feel so good–I’m sorry this one came on the tail end of a critique session that DIDN’T feel so great…the longer you do this, your skin will thicken, but if you keep feeling this way for too long, don’t feel like you shouldn’t speak up and talk about it at the group! Good luck. ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Thanks, Becky. Your book came at exactly the right time for me. And I’ll keep your advice in mind about speaking up if needed. For now, much of the feedback was warranted, so I’ll use your last section to figure out how and where to implement it (the highlighter is my friend).

  5. Hi Christi,

    I sure hope your group emphasizes what does work in addition to what *might* need re-writing. I’m sure once it percolates through you’ll get some valuable insights from your own assessment of the feedback.

    Great story! I loved the habanero, and a very smooth story with a lot packed into a small space. Great voice and great opening line!

  6. ok, I over-used ‘great’ but I mean it!

  7. I love getting critiques of my work, unless it’s something like “What the heck is it supposed to be about?” Then I ain’t so happy.

    If it’s an easy fix, yay. If not, nay.

    • I understand your sentiments exactly ๐Ÿ™‚ I promise, if I ever critique one of your stories, not to say “what the heck…?”

      Thanks for the giggle (don’t know if meant to make me laugh, but I appreciate it anyway).

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