Author, Critique, Editing, Fiction, Group, Novel, Revision, Writing

Post-critique syndrome

Everyone has a syndrome or disorder nowadays so I feel no shame in revealing mine. I have post-critique syndrome.

It happens every time. Even if most of the feedback on my submission is favorable, something—one teeny little comment—sets off the outbreak. On a bad day, I tell myself to face the fact I can’t write anything worth reading, need to delete these Word files and get back to Realworld. On a good day, I admit the problems cited were things I suspected myself, but didn’t want to deal with—well, actually Ms. Perfect smacks me and says, “I told you so!” Or maybe I hadn’t seen the problem before, but I do now, and accept that it just means more work ahead of me.

I know I’m too close to the writing to see these problems myself. I know my book can only improve when I make these corrections. I know I’m not alone in these self-doubts. I can’t remember reading a single interview of a successful author who didn’t admit they have doubts about their writing. That’s both encouraging and discouraging; it means this insecurity is normal—but it also means this insecurity will never end.

So, today I sit here going over the comments on my last submission, weighing each, deciding whether to implement suggested changes and, if so, how and where, and inside I’m laughing at myself who, as a novice writer, wondered how on earth it could take two or three or more years to write a novel.

16 thoughts on “Post-critique syndrome”

  1. Criticism is certainly not a girls best friend! (yet it should be). I’ve noticed that once the ‘shock’ fades, the valuable points surface, and suddenly everything is glowing again because I know my work will be taken to another level. One of my workshop leaders always told us to let the critique sit in our system for a good week before we work on it. Hastiness results in disaster!
    (And, after reading this post I’ve suffered a jealous pang because you ARE receiving feedback.(I’m looking for a critique group in my area to no avail.))


    1. I found this one through, which will tell you if there are any groups in your area, but only if they are set up through MeetUp, of course.


  2. Linda,
    I want echo Jennifer. Let the critique sit for a bit. Take what works to heart, let go of anything that really doesn’t make sense to you. It’s YOUR work, your voice, your talent. You are the last word in what makes it great.

    You’ll get there. How could you not?

    Karen 🙂


    1. Thanks for the support, Karen. Really, I no longer take it to heart as much as I did at first. That’s not to say I don’t consider each point raised in critique, I mean only that I don’t let it throw me like it used to. So far, I don’t regret any changes I’ve made based on feedback, so maybe I have a good inate sense of what to listen to and what to ignore … then again, I may find that every comment I ignored will be repeated by my future agent or editor! 🙂

      But I am wayyyy too impatient to let a critique set for longer than overnight. I want this book done, finished, wrapped up–yesterday!


  3. Despite the criticisms, ahem, always keep in mind the most important feedback you continually receive:
    1. People care about your characters.
    2. They enjoy and respect your writing abilities.


    1. Why thank you, Paul. And just so you know, your comment about Meredith’s over-reaction is one I’m still mulling over. Or should I say agonizing over? I’m such a complainer! 🙂


      1. I just read this about photography, but it’s true of writing feedback as well:

        #33. Just because someone has a strong opinion, does not mean that he’s right.
        One of the great challenges in growing as a photographer is knowing when to embrace what others say and when not to. The world is full of people who will tell you what they think about your work – often because you asked them to and occasionally when you did not. Either way, these insights can be valuable because it’s hard to see ourselves from afar. Understand, though, that the intensity of the message is no measure of its validity. Plenty of people have strong opinions but no clue. If a comment comes back to you again and again, listen to it. It’s returning only because you’re allowing it to come back. It’s returning because somehow it resonates with who you are and who you are to become.


      2. I really like that, Paul! That’s great advice. Yes, certainly it applies to writing feedback … it could apply to anything in life, really. Thanks for sharing that.


  4. Self-Doubt is nobody’s friend. Yet seems to be the one that hangs out the most. I wish there was a self-doubt-a-rid I could buy. Or invent; I’d be rich. I’d still write though, rich or poor.

    The only thing I hate about critiques is they make me work, think. But in the end, I’m much more pleased with the changes I forced my self to conquer.


    1. Well, from talking to Kasie, we know we’ll have a lot more changes to make once we get an agent, so think how pleased you’ll be then! 🙂


  5. The writing group I belong to (also found through MeetUp) has been invaluable, although painful at times, to me. The harshest critiques are the ones that hurt the most but also help the most. I’ve grown a ton since I started with them.


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