It's incredibly humbling to see all the red scribbled over my manuscript...and even more humbling to know that the critique is absolutely right. But that's not the strongest feeling that comes to me as I read through her red marks. The strongest feeling is
That may sound odd to say, but it is true. The fact that she puts her finger right on these nebulous things that have been bothering me feels really good.
Here's an analogy: let's say you have a knot in your back -- you know, you lifted something heavy or slept funny, and now the muscles in your back have knotted up. It hurts and its uncomfortable, but you can't quite work the knot out yourself.
And then somebody comes along and rubs your back and says "oh, there's a knot here" and then presses or rubs on it in just the right way and the muscle releases. Ahhhh, that feels so much better.
Another equally good analogy would be if somebody found a splinter and pulled it out.
That's what I feel like when she says something like "you switched point-of-view unexpectedly here, and it yanks the reader out of the story." Ahhhh. Whew.
Here's another thing I like about her critiquing: she has found a balance between teaching and taking-over-my-book. In other words, I don't feel like SHE is rewriting my book. [This may sound selfish and egotistical, but I still want my book to be mine when I am done.] At the same time, she gives me instructions so that I have something to go on. Let me show you what I mean:
TOO MUCH HELP:
"The paragraph you had written was awkward. Here is a better way to say it...(insert a completely rewritten paragraph penned by the critiquer)."
TOO LITTLE HELP:
"This paragraph is awkward."
"Stop using passive voice (You have 'was' four times in the past 3 sentences. That's no good.).
Your description is entirely based on sight. Draw your picture using all five senses. I want to know how the camp sounds, smells, feels, and tastes.
Also, take advantage of this passage to show us more of your character's personality. How does she react to this scene?"
Which brings me to the part where the balance is affected for me: does the critiquer believe I can fix it? To me, when someone says "this is bad - fix it!" then it is a compliment because they believe I can fix it. You can give me all the criticism in the world if it is coupled with this subtle acknowledgement of my potential. It is when somebody says "yeah, okay, never mind, it's good enough," that I feel like they think they are pacifying someone who can't get any better at their craft.
With all that being said, I feel like my friend is giving me the perfect balance of praise and criticism. The occasional "hahaha" or "now we're getting somewhere" are welcome boosts as well as a way to highlight examples of what she is looking for. I can look at it and say, "oh, yes, I see how this paragraph was better than that other one. I can aim for that same level of excellence everywhere."
Those of you who have been following my princess on her dungeon quest know that she is only known in the story as "the princess." Well, you should know that this is about to change. As my critiquer is reading my story, she has said more than once:
"She really needs a name."
And so one will be forthcoming very soon. Please stand by.