However, that's a discussion for another time. For now, I want to talk about getting a critique because, at this moment, this a thing very near and dear to my heart. For you see, I am currently being critiqued.
The Waiting stage comes after you've submitted your story to your reviewers. It's when your heart decides to skip beats every 30 seconds, when your knees shake and your legs threaten to come upstairs and have a word with the management about conditions down below. It's incredibly nerve wracking. At it's best, Waiting can produce a mild concern for the writer and cause him/her to check their email every five minutes. Meanwhile, at it's worse, it can make you physically sick.
Next comes the Reply. It might be weeks later, maybe only days or hours depending on the length of your story and the speed of the person reviewing it. This stage occurs when the reviewer has sent the story back but when you, the writer, have not yet opened their critique. Maybe you've read the email, maybe not even that. All the things you felt during the Waiting stage come back, hitting you a hundred-fold. You ask yourself question after question. "What did they say? Is it bad? I know it's just awful, isn't it?" This is the stage where you bite your fingernails down to the nubs and, with no fingernails left, look to your toes and wonder just how flexible you are.
But, finally, you build up your courage and open the critique. Congratulations! Your story is back in your hands and it has red marks all over it. Let's call this the Red Pen stage.
In the Red Pen you are horrified. Absolutely, 100% horrified. In fact, you are enraged. How could the reviewer have done this?! Yes, you wanted them to tear it to shreds but, not like this! You've put a lot of work into this thing, it's your baby. You sent it out into the world and it comes back crying and bleeding. It tells you it just went around the block to the corner market and on the way back it got mugged for the pair of candy bars it had bought. One for it and one for you. You see its story of adventuring in the wide, wide world and all you want to do is sit down and cry. And so you do.
You Cry. You let it all out, covering your face with your hands and wail and weep unashamedly. But then you get a grip on yourself and realize that, yes, you did want the reviewer to tear your story to shreds. You wanted them to grind your story into the dust. And they have.
You've entered the Please, Please stage. Here, you have come to grips and you get down to business. Getting out your story again you actually look at each of the red marks. You read them. You read all of them. First you read what your reviewer said. Then you read what you wrote. Then you read what isn't there and try to make sense of what your reviewer has said. Some of it's good. Some of it's bad. Some of it, especially if the reviewer did it by hand, is illegible. If typed, it will be legible, but that doesn't mean comprehensible.
Next, you become the Thinker. You know, that famous statue of the naked man sitting hunched over, chin propped on his fist? You become him. You think about what you've just read. About what the reviewer said, about what you wrote, about what was between the lines, both yours and the reviewers.
In contrast to the Red Pen stage there is also a, Yellow Pen, stage. The Yellow Pen stage comes after the Thinker stage and it's where you get out a yellow hi-liter and, going over the critique again, you hi-lite everything you think could be useful. You hi-lite what they told you was good, what they really, really liked. Your going to want to keep these things around and work on increasing the number of such things throughout your story. You also hi-lite the things the reviewer says you should change and, if examples are given of how you can change them, you not only hi-lite them but put big yellow stars or arrows or whathaveyous around them so your attention is particularly drawn to such helpful suggestions.
Lastly, you come to the Talking stage. You've finished reviewing the reviewers comments, you've hi-lited until there is more red and yellow on the story's pages than there is black or white, and you are feeling better. Really, you're feeling better. In fact, you even feel grateful! So grateful, that you go back and thank your reviewer. They put a lot of work into this, usually of their own free will and giving their own free time and asking for nothing or little in return. This is a true friend and they've just made your story better. No, it's not better yet, but it will be soon.
Beyond thanking your reviewer, the Talking stage is where you get to ask your questions. "How exactly did I make this so good for you? I didn't think it was very good."---"You're lost? How can you be lost? Didn't I state it right here?"---"What is this word? I can't make it out." And so forth. In most of my experiences, the reviewer is willing to talk to you and explain their feelings and the statements they have made. Perhaps not if they are a professional reviewer but, as a wannabe writer and not yet a published author, you're not as likely to run into these folk. At least, not in their professional capacity.
Finally--ok, so Talking isn't actually the last stage--you move into the Rewrite stage. Your story has been critiqued, you've gone through torture waiting for it to return, horror when it does and, eventually, you have come to grips with it and discussed it with the reviewer. Now you're ready to act upon it. And this, my friend, is a whole new, entirely different matter which you are encountering and, so, getting critiqued is at an end.
Of course, your getting critiqued experience may be different than this. Mine is not exactly this. Or, it hasn't always been in the past. Some stages may be skipped entirely. Or some of the symptoms, telling you which stage you are currently in, are not quite as extreme as I have painted them. Then again, they may be worse.
As I said at the beginning, I am currently in the first stage: Waiting. I sent my story out this afternoon to two friends from my workshop group over at SFFWorld. As we all know, sometimes friends tell us what they think we want to hear. So am I worried? No. One of these two friends has reviewed stories for me before, even earlier versions of this same story. If she does not tear my story to pieces I will probably become very upset because I'll think she is only telling me what I want to hear. But that's not going to happen. Like I said, she's reviewed stuff for me before and I know her to be very honest in her critiquing habits. The other reviewer is new to my work but he, too, does not worry me. Whatever he returns to me will be good and contain something of value that can only make my story better.
I look forward to what they have to say. Now if only they would say it and send it back!!