Thursday, October 20, 2011

Critique partners are like your mom. And that's a good thing.

Some eleven year old girls aren't awkward.

Sadly, I wasn't one of them.

My city started their first ever Little Miss City pageant the year I was eleven, and like a kid who likes to do everything, I signed up, having no idea what I was doing. Nor having any idea how itchy being up on stage in front of a gym full of people made you. I am talking full-body itch. Head to toe. The kind you can't just ignore.

I was thrilled when I had finally finished "performing" my talent (in which I had a bunch of pictures I had painted on easels, and walked around talking about them in an unprepared script-less manner while scratching everywhere and saying "um" a lot). Afterward, one of the judges approached me and suggested that I enter my talent in a more appropriate venue. The State Pageant of the Arts.

So I did, and I won. Pretty cool, huh? Except that it meant going to an awards ceremony, which occurred on opening night of the performing part of the Pageant.

Did I mention I was awkward?

My mom told me to wear a dress. I liked wearing a dress as much as I would've liked staying in from recess to scrape gum off the bottoms of desks, so I used every power of persuasion I owned to convince my mom that a dress wasn't needed. I had maroon corduroy pants with a matching vest that was nice. --ish. And the best part was, I was already wearing the pants and the shirt! All I'd have to do was put on the jacket! (I was NOT one of those girls who changed clothes dozens of times a day.)

No matter how hard I tried, though, I didn't convince my mom. She still believed I should wear a dress. (Like that pretty one that I wore to Little Miss City!) I was fairly persistent, though, and eventually I won.

At the ceremony, the organizers led us on stage in front of the biggest crowd I had ever seen, to sit in a long row of fifteen kids-- the other winners from the other age categories. EVERY SINGLE GIRL WORE A DRESS BUT ME. And suddenly I remembered that in addition to my maroon pants that were possibly getting a little too short, I was wearing sky blue socks. I'd never felt more uncomfortable (or awkward!) in all my life. An embarrassment my mom had tried to save me from before I even left the house.

Critique partners and critique groups are like moms. They find all of those things in your manuscript that have the potential to embarrass you. They point out the things that don't match. They show where you are falling a bit short. They call you on places where you're being inappropriate. They don't want your sentences to be awkward.

You might not think they're right. You might fight them with all the persistence you have. When you're inclined to fight them until you win, take a break. Even if it's a lot of work to change, take a moment to see if they may just be right. You'll be glad they were there to make sure that before your manuscript "leaves home," you aren't going to embarrass yourself.


Cynthia said...

Cute story and oh so true:-)

Tasha Seegmiller said...

I love this. I had purple corduroy pants.

My group has been saying something over and over but I kept thinking I fixed it until I realized I hadn't. Boy I was glad they were there before I shared my manuscript at a bigger workshop.

Fabulously written. I think I have a pageant post or two in the works now :)

Paul Tobin said...

I love the story. I think you raise a very valid point that at times we should listen to others, especially if they have experience in the field in question. If we want the best for our work I think we have to listen to those wise voices.

Angela Cothran said...

This is such a fabulous comparison. What I love about critique partners (and moms) is they have your best interest at heart. They just want you to be the best you can be, before you are flung out into the world (who doesn't care if you fail). Great post!

Kelley said...

I usually find that my critique partner picks out that stuff that I was hoping would work, but deep down I knew it didn't. Her confirmation that yes, what I thought wasn't good enough is actually not good enough, gets my but into gear to go back and fix it.

Wine and Words said...

Hey, it's so high tech and cool in here! Really cute blog. I'll do just about anything for cookies, but prefer the dough. That doesn't work well as a T-shirt. "Will Work For Dough" just sounds like I'm after $'s!

Well, from one awkward BURN THE DRESSES woman to another, thanks for stopping by my blog and it's nice to meet you!

Jillian said...

Hehe - cute story and great analogy. I remember one time I was going to be awarded something at a school assembly; I had no idea, but my mother had been notified so she could attend. She tried so hard to get me to dress up that day without giving away the surprise, but I wasn't having any of it.

S.P. Bowers said...

Hope I listen to my critique partners more than I listened to my mom as a kid.

Maggie said...

Critique partners can also be like Moms in another way--they can be your cheerleaders. Which is sometimes even more important than telling you what you did wrong. We need someone to say "Yes, this is worth it! Keep it up and someday it will pay off."

Janet Johnson said...

Love the comparison! It's good to listen to others who have been through it and learn from them!

Jessie Humphries said...

What an interesting story pegs! U hard headed little genius u! I can't wait for u to prevent my embarrassment:)

Shilpa said...

LOL! Awesome story and a very nice way to drive the point! and yes, I don't know how but moms seem to know everything! I mean, EVERYTHING!

Juliemybird said...

Such a cute analogy. And so true! Thanks for this, Peggy. I had a giggle and a think, all at the same time. :)

Christine Rains said...

Cute story! And it's so true. Thanks for sharing. I'm still an awkward girl!

Ruth Josse said...

I love this story! Moms AND crit partners know what's best!

Donna K. Weaver said...

And yet, your critique partners can't really tell you how to fix your problem, just that you've got one. They need to let your figure that out yourself.

I can so relate to that story. lol

Susan Kane said...

Such a great story, and analogy.

Christina Lee said...

What a great story and analogy (so so true)! I love that the judge told you to enter a different contest and you won!

Iain said...

How do you manage to come up with such wonderful posts every day?
On the subjects of mums, did you wanna swap? Or hire her out for a short while?

The Golden Eagle said...

What a great story. :)

Jeigh said...

I love it! Great analogy. And seriously, what is it about being on stage that makes us itchy?? I'm so with you there.

Carrie Butler said...

This post was full of awkward goodness. Great analogy! :)

P.S. Yes! The NaNoReviMo party is on! ;)

Lan said...

Okay so I have to ask, if that really a picture of you or did you happen to find one somewhere that so closely managed to match your story?? I just recently got myself a critique partner and while I dread sending her things, I really do think that they are invaluable.

Stephanie said...

Love this story, and the underlying analogy is so apropos! And great advice to take a break, rather than the knee-jerk reaction to resist the constructive feedback. I know that I often think, "There's no WAY I can make those changes" when I get feedback from my crit partner on a chapter I thought (for sure) was done, but when I put everything aside for a day or two I end up realizing she was right and I can do it (if I'm willing to roll up my sleeves and really dig in). Thanks for the post, Peggy, and thanks for your blog in general--I have newly discovered it and am so glad I did. It's inspirational!

Stephanie Black said...

Loved the analogy! I'm very grateful for test readers and editors who have saved me from publicly embarrassing myself.

Susan Kaye Quinn said...

It's so important not to fight your crit partners! They're doing you a huge favor, and even when you don't agree, at least they tried to warn you. :)

Great post!

Lindi said...

Cute story! And we are so thankful for our CP's and our moms! Thanks for sharing.

i'm erin. said...

Had I known you back then I would've said, that looks bad.

Julie Musil said...

I love this! So true. Although mom let me take a school picture with bed head one year. *hangs head in shame*

But you're so right about critique partners. Sometimes the notes are tough to swallow, but if I sit on them for a couple of days, I usually see that my lovely writer buddies are correct.

Angela Brown said...

Thanks so much for sharing your story. And you are soooo right :-)

Peggy Eddleman said...

Cynthia-- Thanks! Critique partners are definitely life savers!

Tasha-- Purple! I wish I had purple corduroy pants right now! Didn't you love the sound they made when you walked? Some things can be so hard to fix! You think you've got it, but then you realize that it went so much deeper! And if you do a pageant post, come tell me. I definitely want to read it!

Paul-- So true.

Angela-- I think that's the most important thing to remember- that they have our best interests at heart!

Kelley-- Haha! That's the best and the worst at the same time when a CP suggests something that you hoped worked but deep down knew it didn't.

Wine and Words-- A "Will Work For Dough" T-Shirt! Hilarious! Love it. Nice to meet you, too!

Jillian-- I had the same experience, too! My mom kept saying, "But we're going to pick out new glasses after school. Don't you want to wear something cute so you can see how cute the glasses would look?" And I was all, "Really mom. I do have an imagination. Plus today is cowboy day, and the only cowboy shirt I have is this one I last wore four years ago." Mine didn't ruin the secret either. She let me go in the bad shirt.

S.P.-- Hahahahahahaha! Love that.

Maggie-- My mom is one of my best cheerleaders, too. We definitely need someone (or multiple someones!) to tell us that it's worth it and to keep it up.

Peggy Eddleman said...

Janet-- Totally! And I really love your profile picture.

Jessie-- I swear I wasn't THAT hard-headed. I just REALLY hate wearing a dress more than once a week. Still do. I can't wait to read more of your book, either! Get on that, will ya? ;)

Shilpa-- It's because of the extra mom powers. Like the eyes in the back of their heads. :)

Juliemybird-- A giggle and a think. Hehe. That made me giggle.

Christine-- Awkward girls unite!

Ruth-- :) They totally do.

Donna-- Sigh. So true. But knowing is half the battle, right?

Susan-- Thanks!

Christina-- She was a REALLY nice judge. She didn't even say anything about the scratching!

Iain-- Thanks! And no, sorry. My mom rocks. I'm not willing to swap/loan. :)

Golden Eagle-- Thanks!

Jeigh-- I don't know! It's crazy! Maybe it's like how your ears get hot when someone's talking about you, or when you can "feel" that someone is staring at you, even though you can't see them. Maybe having that many eyes on you at once overloads those sensors and they go haywire.

Carrie-- Snort! Awkward goodness. Is that an oxymoron? Yay! NaNoReviMo party coming up.

Lan-- No, it's not. Don't you hate when you need a REALLY SPECIFIC picture, and you just know you'll never find it? I just found a picture that somewhat worked, and then cropped it and changed the colors on the pants, shoes, and socks.

Stephanie-- Yep. Those ones where you really have to dig in are definitely the hardest. Thank you so much for your comment! It made me a million kinds of happy.

Stephanie Black-- They're the best! Now if I could only have the same help on everything I SAY...

Susan-- I know! Even if you really want to fight them. It's way better to be warned.

Lindi-- I know I am incredibly grateful for mine. :)

Erin-- I know you would've. Where were you when I was a kid?! I could have REALLY used you! Many times over. Oh, yeah. You were living in the land of the surf and sun.

Julie-- Aaa! Bed head! Hilarious. Or... at least it is now. I'm betting you thought otherwise at the time. :)

Angela-- You're welcome! Writer buddies are definitely awesome.

cherie said...

Your mom is awesome!

Great analogy. CPs can save you from embarrassment.


Leigh Ann said...

Before my first ever CP on my first ever draft, my MC was dense and cried too much, and my other MC was a douchebaggy old man - even though he was 18.

To say she save me from complete embarrassment is a serious understatement.

This post couldn't be more true.

Kristen Pelfrey said...

I think I had that same outfit in green.
Great post, Peggy. You are so right. The best crit partners are a lot like moms. I have a crit partner who tells me like it is, and you know, she is always right.
And the ghost meringues are darling. I don't cook, but I approve of eating. I do that a lot.

Peggy Eddleman said...

Cherie-- She is awesome! And boy, don't I know it.

Leigh Ann-- I laughed out loud when I read your comment about your 18-year-old old man! I cringe at the thought of how my ms would be were it not for my CPs.

Kristen-- Green! That's awesome! You in green, me in maroon, Tasha in purple... We'd have made a great group! It's so great to have CPs who know what they're talking about and aren't afraid to tell you!

Susanna Leonard Hill said...

What a great post and an apt analogy! And I can SO relate to the awkward!

LindaK said...

Peggy, I am a great lover of my purple corduroy trousers even now! Sadly, my mum passed away in 2006 but she was ABSOLUTELY my best and kindest critic, telling me when something sounded wrong and sending my manuscripts back with little red squiggles over them! I haven't replaced her - I haven't found anyone who could do the job - but my criteria for my novel is writing something that Mum would say "OOh yes, it's a goody!" about. In other words, a book she'd read and want to pass on to me!