Attack of the
Going Down in Flames)
So you finally braved the world of the workshop and you
have received your first critiques. Some have been
helpful and polite, others so short they are useless and
last, those that are all out attacks.
You enthusiastically thank the first group, and politely
thank the second, but how do you handle the third? Being
courteous to someone who has just trashed your hard work
may seem impossible but it's not.
First, no matter how much you like your characters, they
are just characters and not real people. You may have
poured your heart into the story but it is a story and
the window to your soul can be shut.
Not every reader is going to enjoy your style of writing.
Think about it. You have your own favorite authors. Then
there are those writers that you wonder how they ever got
published in the first place. It is impossible to please
everyone, so don't even try. What matters is if you enjoy
what you are writing.
There is also the consideration that the person who just
flamed you may have had a bad experience themselves. This
does not justify their abusing an innocent bystander, but
I can assure you it does happen.
Look for a redeeming quality to the offensive critique.
How? In a recent critique I received, the reader trashed
my story. I had never criticized any of her work so the
attack was unprovoked. As I read her critique, I was very
angry. Who was this person and why was she attacking me?
I did not deserve such abuse.
How does the old saying go? Life isn't fair (and neither
After muttering (okay, yelling) several abusive comments
at my computer screen, I walked away. For several hours.
When I came back and read the critique again, I found one
redeeming quality. I had not set up my antagonist well
enough. More than one reader felt my antagonist was
contradictory to my setting. A very serious flaw.
The first reader to point this out (albeit far more
politely) I ignored. By the time I received more
critiques, I realized the 'flamer' had a point. I re-read
the story and found several places to improve my villain.
So now you have gotten that killer critique and you are
having a hard time walking away. What do you do while you
are trying to bite back all those scathing retorts? Here
are a few suggestions.
1 - Write a reply to
the offender. Be as nasty as you want. Rip them to shreds.
The catch? DO NOT SEND IT. You can only send it after you
have removed all the rude parts. You may be left with a
simple 'thank you' but that is enough. You don't want to
be kicked out of the workshop for childish name calling.
2 - If you can find a
copy of the 'flamer's' work, write a blistering critique
of your own. Again, DO NOT send it. One person is not
worth losing the friendships you might make in the
3 - If you can't think
of words severe enough to describe the 'flamer' in your
own mind, use their name as a curse word. Sound silly?
Try it, you might find it strangely therapeutic.
4 - Write the offender
into your next story and make them die a horrid death, or
make them live in constant pain. Make sure you change the
name to avoid a lawsuit.
5 - Literally flame
them by burning them in effigy. Okay, so you might want
to restrain yourself to a paper doll and a candle.
Otherwise you might set off the sprinklers in your
building or cause serious financial damage to your home.
(This is purely tongue in cheek.)
Back to the serious recommendations. Workshops can
provide useful insight into your work. Just remember to
wear your rhino hide and close that storm window to your
A fellow writer suggests that you keep that imaginary
squeegee handy. You may have a lot of dirt thrown at you
but it washes off. Bask in the good critiques, ignore the
useless ones and keep a sense of humor for the 'flamers'.
Most of all, keep in mind that the purpose of joining a
workshop is to improve your writing skills. You can't do
that if all you receive are pats on the back and empty
praise. If no one ever tells you what you are doing
wrong, then you will never know what you need to fix.
Good luck with all your writing endeavors and remember to
Copyright 2001 Tina Morgan. All rights reserved.