My husband did everything right in the past forty-eight hours. The man should be given an award of some kind, perhaps on an international level. He’s married to a writer. He has a tough assignment. My hubby had his hands full this week, and he blessed my life in every way.
I love my husband, and I love Jesus. Today I am overwhelmed with gratitude to them both.
When I started writing for public consumption, rejections were devastating, and criticism was hard to take. By the grace of God, I’ve learned to ask for the critique of others, to sift through their words, to detect the truth, to avoid taking it personally, and to apply the wisdom contained therein, no matter how it is delivered. Applied wisely, criticism makes me a better writer and a better person.
I’ve also learned to spot the subjective parts of critique, the personal preference issues. Human evaluations are subjective. Some things you like. Some things you don’t.
Recently, I entered my controversial novel in a contest. It’s a literary-biblical-historical-supernatural-speculative retelling of the story of Cain and Abel. How’s that for a genre! My readers have called it a page-turner, a novel they can’t put down. However, before I market it, I needed to seek some pointed criticism to discover the flaws.
For the contest, the first fifteen pages of the novel were submitted along with a one-page synopsis of the entire story. Novels were evaluated based on this small sampling; so, actually, the novel’s concept and plot, as presented in the synopsis, and the novel’s opening scenes were being judged. These elements are crucial to a novel’s success. Entries were judged anonymously by professionals, giving authors the chance to see areas that need improvement.
All of the judges made positive comments about my writing—it is strong. Good. I’m mastering the craft. One judge gave me highest marks (5s and 4s). This judge found my insights intriguing, my story idea interesting, and my voice strong. I’m glad I read this one first. Another judge found my premise problematic and didn’t like anything about the story. This judge gave me 2s, 3s, and 4s. I felt like I had whiplash.
The comments and praise of the third judge were almost identical to the first judge; but what he described as strong writing merited 3s and 4s. He gave no 5s. I felt he was tough but fair. He also liked the story, told me I had done a good job, and was captivated until the end.
A sandwich of good news with a meaty patty of gristly criticism.
I read. I cried. Then I stepped away from my computer to allow my emotions time to settle. In order to benefit from their criticism, I had to evaluate it objectively. When I returned, I reread their comments, asking the Lord for clarity.
To determine where to begin, I looked for the common criticism. All of them thought I needed less narrative in the opening—more showing, less telling. I’m a teacher—I tend to spend too much time setting the scene at the beginning. The opening hook needed to be stronger. That was helpful.
Sparkling dialogue, they said, keep an eye on that. As I revise, every conversation in the novel will be spoken out loud and strengthened. Each of them also had one particular comment that was unique to them. They were right. I will be applying each of those. I wrote to thank each one.
Their critique of those first fifteen pages will make my entire novel better. The positive comments gave me hope. Immediately, I began to apply the suggestions of all three, working to craft a more excellent product. It ended up being a time of rejoicing. My novel sparked controversy (which it will), I received good critiques that I can apply, and two professionals liked what I’d written and were captured by my story.
While I was dealing with all of this, my husband, having learned from my past rejections, was leaving me alone when I needed solitude, holding me when I needed a hug, listening sympathetically, doing the dishes, and taking me for a walk. He had help. Since committing his life to Christ, Tim has grown to be a stellar man. He would give God all the credit for his transformation. Hubby kept me going.
Through it all, Jesus was singing to my heart, encouraging me. I felt as if he were embracing me in his strong arms. He reminded me of truth: He is sovereign. God is in control. Nothing can touch my life unless it is for my ultimate good. He promised.
I asked him to help me believe his words. I clung to him. I didn’t fall flat.
Jesus loves me whether my novel is controversial, run of the mill, terrible, or a bestseller. When he got up on that cross to die for me, he proved his love. It’s unwavering. Any criticism is taken in light of this unvarying, objective, blessed truth. That’s such a relief!
Have you had any criticism that knocked you flat? Who kept you going?