Five Stages of Critique Grief

Please tell me I’m not the only one who sends a manuscript off to critique partners and beta readers with the hope that their response will be, “This is amazingly perfect! Don’t change a thing!” Don’t worry; I know how stupid that is. After all, what’s the point of having critique partners or beta readers if they’re not going to comb through my work with a critical and honest eye?

Still, for some reason I always get super nervous and sometimes a little sensitive about critiques. I have only ever had wonderful and enlightening experiences with the people who’ve so selflessly offered to review my work. It still feels so personal to have it picked apart, even though, rationally, I know it’s for the best.

Having been around the critique block a few times now, I’ve noticed that I experience the same basic stages of “grief” after reviewing a critique. I thought I’d share them here in a bit of a tongue-in-cheek way.

Five Stages of Critique Grief

1) Denial – “I feel fine. This manuscript is perfect… the best I can make it. Why else would I be open to sending it out to honest and thoughtful readers? I’m a superb writer!”

This stage, for me at least, is full of false confidence. It begins before I ever send my manuscript off for review and lasts right up to the moment I open my CP’s/beta’s version of the document to read their comments.

That’s when all my delusions come crashing down around me.   

2) Anger – “Why me? It’s not fair!”

Perhaps ANGER is a bit too strong an emotion here, though I suppose it’s possible. Still, CONFUSION might be more appropriate for our purposes. This is the stage where I wonder what the heck my CP/beta is thinking. “Well, you just don’t get it!” occasionally runs through my head, often followed by “Maybe that’s the way you’d write it!”  

3) Bargaining – ” I’ll just think it over for a few days…”

This stage usually involves the hope that I can somehow postpone or delay the inevitable revision: If I stew over the critique for a few days, maybe the suggestions will become more appealing. Or, maybe I’d be able to address the flaws of this draft if the feedback wasn’t so daunting. Or, even my manuscript will miraculously fix itself.     

4) Depression – “I’m so sad, a complete failure at writing and life.”

Also bouncing around in my head: You’re wasting your time! Everyone else is better at this than you. It’s NEVER going to happen. Often, there’s very little to show for this stage, other than extreme snacking/sleeping/cleaning/wallowing/irritating of significant other, though it’s essential in the process of getting back on your feet. Or, back into your writing chair.   

5) Acceptance – “It’s going to be okay.”

The most productive phase. Acceptance of the fact that I’m not perfect, and that my first, second, third and fourth drafts probably won’t be either. I asked those who are honest and forthright and knowledgeable for help, so I’d better put on my big girl panties and accept it. Then, I begin working on revisions, slowly addressing all of the feedback of  my CP/beta, and suddenly it seems more manageable. The suggestions begin to read as logical–good, even. Often, I find myself thinking, Damn! Why didn’t I think of that?! Or, This is SO much better! I can’t wait for her to read this draft!

And then, all stages painfully and effectively experienced,  I’m excited about the prospect of writing and revising and critiques all over again because I know I’m improving, both my skills and my manuscript.  

**And to the fabulous ladies who’ve read my work and given me advice and feedback: I can never thank you enough… your help and guidance has been extraordinary!

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2 responses to “Five Stages of Critique Grief

  1. Nope, you’re definitely not alone hoping everyone will think your book is phenomenal and perfect.

    But then, when you get one of those crits back and it’s gushing with praise and zero criticisms? Somehow it doesn’t feel as good as we expected. In fact, we wonder if maybe our book was so incredibly boring that the person couldn’t even read it closely enough to come up with a decent suggestion or two!

    It’s funny how we think we want one thing and wind up actually wanting (and needing) the very thing we’re afraid of.