Q: I finished my first romance novel a few months ago. I joined an online critique group, polished my first chapter, and sent it off. When I got it back, it was torn to pieces. Six different writers each found several serious things wrong with it. I have to say…it really hurt. The criticism made me think that maybe this isn’t the path for me. Do most writers feel like this? How do I move pass this feeling of rejection?

A: First of all, I want to congratulate you for your amazing accomplishment. Finishing your first book is such a huge step in fulfilling your dream. I also want to commend you for seeking out a critique group. It is so important for a writer to get good, constructive feedback.

Now for the rest…

Boy, do I ever feel your pain. You are now a member of a very large support group. Rejection/criticism is something we have all been through time and time again. As writers, we put our heart and soul into our stories.  I still feel the sting when my critique group marks up one of my chapters. Criticism, even given with the best of intentions, just isn’t easy to take. But I can tell you it does get easier with time.

So how do you deal with the criticism?

You don’t give up. NO THROWING IN THE TOWEL!!!

You have a great first draft. Now, it’s time to dig in and push yourself just a little harder. We all have been where you are, but there are tips you can learn to help accept the criticism.  First thing I suggest you do is copy all the critiqued chapters into a document, save it, then close the document. You need to leave the critique document alone for a few days. The initial sting will lessen and you will gain valuable perspective.

In the meantime, open up a new document, and begin your next book. That’s right. Start writing! Plan out the outline, come up with your new premise, and develop your characters’ bios. JUST START WRITING. The next story is already simmering in your head because you’re a writer.

After a few days have passed, open the critique document and begin highlighting the comments your critique partners noted on your chapter. You will begin to see that each person found some of the same problems.

Your next step is to open up your manuscript and begin the revision process. It’s very important that you keep an open heart and mind. Before you discount what one of your critique partners has to say, really give their comment some thought.

Your critique partners are not trying to hurt you, but are just trying to help you make your story better. You don’t have to agree with every change they suggest. This is your story and no one knows it like you do. However, I can’t say this enough: keep your mind and heart open for change. It is a lot easier receiving constructive criticism from a critique partner than receiving a rejection from an editor or agent.

No one was born knowing how to write the perfect novel. Don’t be afraid to reach out for help improving your craft! When I first began the revision process, I didn’t have a clue how to improve my manuscript. One of my critique partners suggested I sign up for a craft workshop through my Romance Writers chapter. I quickly learned what not to do.

There are wonderful, reasonably priced online workshops on every imaginable subject about craft available all the time that can fit into your work and home life. Local colleges in your area also have courses you may want to consider.

I know it’s hard to see it right now, but you are just where you need to be. As you work through the many comments, you will be learning valuable writing lessons. You will still make mistakes in later chapters and books, but when someone tells you this whole paragraph is all TELLING, you will bang your head a couple times and re-write it. The more you write, the better at it you will become.

It’s a long process, and at times you will ask yourself why in the heck are you working so hard. Well, the answer is simple. If you are like me, you love the writing. The feeling of having your book released to the world is such an amazing thrill.  If it helps any, I kept this quote at my side and read it often:

Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up. – Thomas A. Edison

I wish you all the very best in your writing journey. When the next criticism hits a little too hard, know that I’m right beside you cheering you on.

~ Nancy C. Weeks, author of In the Shadow of Greed and In the Shadow of Evil

3 thoughts on “Q: I finished my first romance novel a few months ago. I joined an online critique group, polished my first chapter, and sent it off. When I got it back, it was torn to pieces. Six different writers each found several serious things wrong with it. I have to say…it really hurt. The criticism made me think that maybe this isn’t the path for me. Do most writers feel like this? How do I move pass this feeling of rejection?

  1. M.J. Schiller

    I think the most important part is to only take the criticism that rings true with you. Many people who critique will try to rewrite your story. Don’t let them do that! It is your story! Only use the things that you think will improve your writing. The person who knows what is best for your work is you. That being said, be open-minded to criticism, maybe even try to make the changes suggested and see if it sounds better to you. If it does, hurray! If it doesn’t, and what you have works for you, keep it. We have to fight some natural tendencies here. One is to believe everyone knows better than us, so it must be wrong. Two is kind of the opposite, to believe that you can’t change and improve what you already have. Listen to your critiquers and then judge for yourself. You will soon learn who offers the best advice. But keep in mind, even the worst critics can have a gem hidden in there somewhere. So listen, and decide.

    1. NanyCWeeks

      M.J.,
      Wonderful advice! I particularly love what you said about how we have the tendency to think everyone knows better than we do—that we must be wrong. That is such a hard thing to avoid and I’m the first to fall into this crowd. I’m constantly on guard not to just following blindly. Your tip to try to write it both ways is wonderful. The only thing I can add is that we all have to have a little faith in ourselves, faith in our God-given talents, and most of all, faith in our story.

COMMENT