Hen-pecked critique, or… your shit don’t stank.

Someone actually called a crit group getting hen-pecked. Pretty arrogant, if you ask me. There’s not much more you can say to declare your superiority. Okay, well maybe there are a few more things, but this is high on the short list. If you’ve been writing for years and years, worked with editors, and you have plenty of books under your belt that have been published with a wonderful reception, then no, this probably doesn’t apply to you. But for much of the normal folk…

If you don’t think there’s something to be learned from getting hen-pecked, then you probably don’t need an editor since your shit don’t stank. Just waltz right into Penguin and tell them you want your book printed and distributed by Wednesday. They’ll do it, really.

But since getting critiqued is heart-wrenching, here are some tips when you’re feeling like you’ve been picked over by vultures:

Getting hen-pecked is essential to learning how to write. If you can’t figure out the little things, then you’ll never get the big things. If I have to hear one more person say they can use adverbs all they want, I’ll scream. Clearly the point is lost upon them. The idea is not to remove every single adverb from any bit of written genius. It’s to make you write better. Describe better. Make people feel your words. Flip through any book and you’ll find adverbs; they aren’t exactly stricken from the english language. They exist, and it’s okay to use them every once in a while. It’s not okay to rely on them. Adverbs don’t make a person feel anything.

If you’re sick of people telling you to show not tell, maybe you need to research showing vs. telling more. Maybe, just maybe, you don’t really understand the concept. It’s okay not to understand the concept. It took someone taking my work and actually rewriting it, physically showing me the difference between what I wrote and what it could be, in order for me to fully understand. You only need accept that maybe you truly don’t get it.

As a writer, getting hen-pecked also teaches you how to take a critique. You learn how to think critically about your own writing when you see those marks all over the place and wonder how much of that you really need to focus on. We all know that we can pull any book off our shelf and redline the hell out of it. That didn’t stop it from getting printed or from becoming a NYT bestseller.

You learn how to pick and choose which you think matter and which don’t.

You learn how to look at that sea of red and ask yourself why people are focusing on hen-pecking and not the story. If people are focusing that much on hen-pecking, then maybe the story isn’t strong enough.
Once you learn what you’re getting hen-pecked about and fix that in your writing, you generally stop getting hen-pecked. Just sayin’.

There are so many ways to look at the value of a crit group. Instead of looking at how it’s hurting your feelings, look at how it can help you to be a better writer. Writers are a sensitive lot. We love a good fit to throw. Go ahead and feel the anger and get all pissy and throw your fit, just don’t do it publicly. Then come back to your crit and figure out what you can learn from your plucking. Odds are in favor of you becoming a much better writer and critiquer.

In all of this, it’s not to say that some people aren’t very good critters. Some truly do suck. I would like to believe that they are all new because becoming a good critter takes practice and time. You get better at it as you go and become a better writer. It unfortunately doesn’t hold true for everyone. Believe me, you’ll figure out who they are and learn to ignore them.

P.S. If you think getting hen-pecked in a crit group is bad, good luck with an editor. A good editor will have more to say than anyone in a crit group. And most editors don’t believe in the sandwich method.

One Comment

kenya wright
February 3, 2012 9:34 am

Awesome article!!! LOL!

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Cheryl Murphy is Asian with brown hair in a single braid and a smirk.

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