Tuesday, October 5, 2010


In the movie Because I Said So, Diane Keaton’s character goes to a spa with her daughters. She insists on wearing her turtleneck for a massage. Sounds a little stupid, doesn’t it? I know I laughed myself silly at that scene because it reminded me of my first massage. The masseuse assured me I could wear a swimsuit, a two-piece one. If I were okay with wearing a bikini in public, then I would own one. I did survive that first massage because I relaxed and allowed myself to trust. It didn’t hurt that the guy was a total hunk.

It made me think critiques are a lot like massages. We all seem to like both in theory. I’ve talked to several of my friends and almost none of them have had massages. They’d like to, but they can't bring themselves to get on a table facedown and trust their body to a stranger. Same with critique groups, most people who swear they’ll never attend have had a bad experience. Often their experiences come rather vicariously. A friend of a friend endured horrible humiliation at a critique session; therefore, all critiques will follow the same pattern. What would happen if we applied the same reasoning to everything?

Who hasn’t had a book-worthy bad date? I had one write me a three-page critique on what I could do better. That didn’t stop me from dating. It did stop me from dating him, though. Same with massages, I had one woman put me in such extreme pain that she advised me to take three extra strength Tylenols. An unfair or hostile critique should be regarded the same way my review writing date was. Quite frankly, not all critique groups or partners are a good fit. Just like not all masseuses will suit.

A friend of my mine writes explicit romances and then tries to have them critiqued by church ladies. It isn’t working out well. RWA has several different genre groups. Inside these groups, you can often find the right person or persons to critique your work.

Critiquing is a trust relationship. You really are pulling off the turtleneck to submit yourself to a critique massage. A good partner knows to give equal praise and to recognize growth in your craft. Occasionally, you may not agree with a critique, that’s okay. Go with what feels right. In you’re feeling really mellow about your critique group, you might be ready for an actual massage.

I am very grateful for my critique partners. They are right up there with my actual masseuse. Yes, ladies, I am shallow—he is a hunk, but very good with his hands. When he is done, he always says, "Enough torture." I manage with effort to slide off the table.

I would be interested in hearing about your critique and massage experiences, both torturous and heavenly.

Morgan Wyatt


Carolyn Hughey said...

I've had good, bad, and dreadful critiques. One such critique, the person said, "your story is like a chocolate chip cookie recipe that failed and can't be fixed." Two months later, I received the call. :-)

Now, massages are something entirely different. My first massage was given to me as a gift. I was excited, so I showered, put on makeup, and fixed my hair with spray and all.

I didn't realize you shower at home or at the spa before you actually have the massage. LOL I made it pretty difficult for the masseuse, but she struggled through it just fine. Me? I haven't stopped having them. For me, massages are the most awesome relaxation available.

Great article!

Paisley Kirkpatrick said...

No massages, but awesome critique partners. I have been blessed to have CPs who know how to teach as well as critique. In the beginning I knew my work was not good, but didn't know what was wrong and if I did know I wouldn't have known how to fix it. Now I can spot a lot of my problems and fix them first. One of my CPs and I were talking about this the other night. She said it is like I am two different writers - the one pre-critique partner and the one post-critique partner. I don't seem to be able to tempt any editors or agents yet, but in time I am hoping it will happen. :)

Terry Spear/Terry Lee Wilde said...

I've never ever had a massage. Ever.

But critique partners, I have a Rebel Romance Writers bunch of them and they're terrific!!! Not that I didn't have a number of them beforehand--some that quit writing, etc, but I have to say they've meant the world to me. Two of them I was finally able to meet at Disney during the RWA conference. It made it so special for me, and one I'm meeting in Edinburgh to castle hop tomorrow as we both write Highland stories and have Highland roots. :) Nothing can beat that for having terrific critique partners!

I have to say I teach online writing classes and try never to discourage writers no matter what level of writing they're at. I had the most discouraging critique on an entry last year to the FTH's contest and I thought I'd hate to be a newbie and get such a critique. And yet, even as a published author, it made me not want to enter again. Why bother? I beat myself up enough as I rewrite and rewrite and rewrite, hoping to make the stories as good as they can be. Would I change what I had written? No. I love it. It has heart and soul and once I'm finished, I'll send it off.

We have to remember to help not hurt when we are trying to help others write better. Sometimes the helping is not helpful. :) Sometimes it's just totally subjective. Sometimes, as in making a colorful analogy, like Carolyn's cookie critique, is downright insulting. It's not constructive, it's not helpful, and it's totally an opinion, that after Carolyn sold, revealed it was totally wrong.

So no matter whether you have critique partners or not, we just have to remember that some readers, editors, agents might not care for our voice or style of writing, but all we need is one editor or agent who does love our mss that can make all the difference in the world.

morgan wyatt said...

Hi Carolyn,
Your help on this blog is the equivalent two dozen excellent chocolate cookies. We all like different things--and just may be your hostile critique partner didn't recognize good chocolate chip cookies when she saw it.

Thanks for me laugh about the hair sprayed hair and the massage.

morgan wyatt said...

Don't give up, you just need the right editor to pick up book and fall in love with it.


morgan wyatt said...

Hi Terry,
Since I've attended your online classes I will have to say you do encourage & MOTIVATE all your students. Have fun in Scotland. Wish I was there.