Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Why I never leave out that first critique...

Over at eharlequin on the UK M&B Editors thread, there's been a bit of a discussion about critique partners. I told my story, because I love to. My relationship with my CP is very possibly the most important one in my career; certainly it's the longest running. And I continue to tell the part where I almost quit writing. Read on to see what I wrote:

"Once upon a time I had questions about London as I was writing a to-be-rejected book. :-) I asked on one of the threads here, which has since become The Mouse and Pen thread, and Michelle offered to answer them.

This was I think about the end-ish of 2003? I think around then as Michelle sent me her recipe for christmas pudding. LOL What followed was her offering to read a manuscript for me. If you've read Michelle's posts you've probably gathered she's really smart and I thought, why not. The other thing Michelle is is honest. I got that critique back and cried and considered quitting (she probably hates that I never leave this part out, lol). "

Of course Michelle and I were e-mailing yesterday and talking about it.

There IS a reason why I never leave that part out of the story. In an e-mail to her, I said, "It was a hard lesson to learn but one that a lot of writers NEED to learn in this business. It is sometimes hard to hear the truth but you need to recognize it for truth and be willing to work. In some ways there is a certain amount of ego that has to come with writing and then there is a certain place where it doesn’t belong at ALL. You need it to keep going sometimes….a belief in yourself rather than blind ego, if that makes sense. But you really need to open your mind to the fact that there is always a better way. To see possibilities rather than needing to be RIGHT."

As writers we love what we create. But you cannot be married to your words. You need to accept that you WILL be asked to change things and make adjustments. The writer that refuses to change anything because their writing is perfect, or simply because they say this is THEIR story....those writers are shooting themselves in the foot. They will likely miss out on a contract, and more than that, they are missing a learning opportunity. I can honestly say that revisions always make my books stronger. And that means the changes I make based on critiques or the ones I make at my editor's urging.

When Michelle sent that critique, I wasn't ready. Full stop. The difference is, an editor sent me a form letter and Michelle pointed out WHY. She gave me something to work with. There was no place for pride...I could either be right, or I could learn and work towards getting published. No one is going to coddle you and urge you along, editors and agents are just TOO busy. So with that first critique, I cried because my pride was hurt. Then I knew that despite it, I WANTED to be published. I couldn't imagine quitting. So I looked again, and rolled up my sleeves.

I think I feel so passionately about it because I know how hard I worked. I know how much I worked learning craft and submitting and being rejected (and by the way, the learning never ends). I know some people sell right away, but for most there's a learning curve and it takes however long it takes. And I think it's a part of my upbringing that says, if you can't do it, then quit. If you can, look forward and hitch up your britches for hard work. If you are willing to take the journey, you'll get to the destination.

For what it's worth, a few years later the rewrite of that first book she critiqued became HIRED BY THE COWBOY, my first Harlequin Romance.

Food for thought.


  1. Bravo, Donna. Inspiring words that I'm certain many people need to hear. (Yes, me included.)

    You do need to check your ego at the door for this business -- and you can only do this if you love what you do and are willing to work HARD for it.

    I guess some forehead tattooing is in order, huh...? :) *sigh*

  2. The point is that perservance pays, and I got you over to the Dark Side where you love revisions.

    I can remember you saying that my mantra of the day -- Great Books are not written but rewritten was very depressing...then coming to understand what I meant.