Tuesday, July 31, 2018

On Generosity, Critiques, and Valued Feedback

July 2018
"You may wish you knew then what you know now, but remember sometimes...the things you know now were learned from what you didn't know then." --Terri Amshey

Can we speak of generosity? I have a couple of people to thank. Thanks to an agent who gave of her time and resources to read my manuscript and give me much needed advice. Thanks to a friend whom I've come to know and appreciate through blogging who generously offered to read my work and then took precious time to offer a detailed critique that far exceeds anything I've received in the years in which this book has taken shape. 

Both of these responses have come in just the last few weeks. Both were like a bouquet of flowers: a collection of sweet words of encouragement entwined with words rooted in growth and change. Seeds have been planted to make the whole experience of writing a book so much better. And I'm grateful.

Yes, I could say, "if only." If only I knew then what I know now. But then, as Ms. Amshey (above) says, those things I know now came from what I didn't know then. In my case they arrived by way of generous and open hands from those who offered a fresh perspective. I think too many times we seek writing advice, read books on writing, dip into the myriad blogs on the subject of writing, only to come away with a sense that yes, something isn't working but what is that something? When someone then comes along to cut through the fog, we realize what a gift we've been given.

So to Irene and Cathy (you know who you are!), I say thanks. I'm compiling a list of terms of issues that you called out, things like conflict/tension, throughlines, depth, 'episodic.' Then there's an ugly weed that I didn't understand at first but now see more clearly: 'insufficiently digested research'! It just goes to show the old adage, you can't see the forest for the trees :-)

To help along the way, I offer links to a few more articles I will visit in the next round:

10 Tips for (Re)Writing a Novel, by Jolina Petersheim
What I Wish I'd Known, by Cecil Murphey

What has been your experience with critiques--encouraging, constructive, or otherwise? Anything you're particularly grateful for at the moment?


  1. Sounds like you're making progress! I give thanks every day for my "writer friends" (of whom you were one of the first).

    My first critique came from the professor across the hall who teaches YA Lit. I went into her office one day and said (very timidly) that I had been writing for a number of years and would she please read a few pages. She did - and kindly said she wanted to read more. I've had a few critique partnerships, one that was superb and a couple of others that have been less successful relationships, mainly because those writers worked in different ways than I do. It's still hard for me to hear criticism of something I've worked hard on, but it's getting easier. The longer I write, the more I'm able to see the need for changes and willing to make them.

    I do read books and online articles and go to conferences and SCBWI meetings when I can. And I follow a blog or two, especially this one!

    Best of luck, Kenda - you've got some momentum. Keep it going!

    1. And I'm thankful for you in return, Peggy :-) You've been such an encouragement for me through these years and a source of inspiration, for sure. Your experiences with critiques is Interesting. I've had similar situations--tips, general comments, etc. offered, but this time it was different in that the basic problems of story were addressed more than just techniques. So, yes, I hope I can keep the momentum going. I'll keep you posted. Please keep me posted about news in your quest for publication, too!

  2. Kenda, it was a pleasure to read your manuscript, and I sincerely hope to read it in published form someday.

    Also, thank you for the flowers! They were a total surprise, and such a pretty, August prairie look--sunflowers, chartreuse button mums, deep magenta penstemon, and variegated euonymous.

    Have a great weekend. We are deep into wheat harvest, here.

    1. Cathy, once again, you did such a favor for me, I was happy to send you a little surprise--glad you liked the flowers :-) And if--or *when*--my book is published, you'll be one of the first I'll send word to! Wishing you all the best in your harvest time, hope everything goes well. Thanks again for all your help...