I already spoke the necessity of letting people read your writing in order to improve but now I would like to talk about taking the hit of the critique. I briefly mentioned that it can be difficult, yet necessary, to hear what is not working in something that you have literally poured your heart and soul into.
My first suggestion is as follows. Don’t have someone critique it right after you have written it. That moment when you finish a chapter is like nothing I’ve ever experienced. If you are an artist, its like the moment when you finish a drawing (or think you have finished.) You hang it on the wall and are beyond proud of it. As time goes you start to notice that maybe the guys arm isn’t quite right or his eyes are too far apart. Whatever it is as you grow less attached to it you can actually go back see the issues and fix them. Someone else can see issues you don’t.
Another is to treat their critiques as something to work with. Just because one person said your protagonist was unrelatable doesn’t mean they are. If everyone you share it with says the same thing then you may need to think about changes.
I like to start from scratch after a critique. I literally sit down and start the scene, sometimes the chapter, over. And one time, I started the entire book over. It was the best thing I have done so far. Well, actually telling Sara to be mean to me during critiques and to not worry about my feelings was the best thing, but starting from scratch was pretty close.
And my last tip, which I just learned myself, is to wait until you have a complete draft to seriously start revision. That doesn’t mean you should hoard it away and hiss at anyone who strays too near. I say this because if I didn’t move on I would be critiquing the first three chapters forever. I do give them to people and on days where I’m not feeling the main story I do go back and revise where people have suggested I do so. I am also constantly thinking about revisions. What I am no longer doing is making myself revise before moving on. I am to a point now where the bones of my story are good.
Sara and I are always talking about the bones of a story. For an example, before I started from scratch my story’s bones were jumbled. They were week and mixed up and couldn’t have supported ten pounds of meat. By meat I mean the good stuff. The drama the love the action. The epic fight scenes! (At least I hope they are epic) As a result my story was about as deep as a puddle on a 90 degree, cloudless day. Yeah, that deep. If you are having that issue you need to critique and revise until you feel you have those extremely necessary bones.
I will write a separate post on what helped me get to those bones tomorrow. For now I hope this was helpful in handling critiques.