Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Don't Touch My Baby!

by Rachael Phillips

I never knew I could grow fangs until I became a mother.

 But they made their presence known when a wicked relative patted the soft spot on my new daughter’s head. When an iniquitous motorcyclist wrecked her naptime. When, during the wee hours, I mistook my weary intern-physician husband for a burglar/babynapper and nearly nailed him with a stiletto high heel.

When you create something special, you know it. And you will protect it with your life’s blood.

Some aspects of writing mirror parenthood; certainly, the miracle of idea conception, the growth of the story within, and the pain and joy of giving birth to the book—not to mention lack of sleep, sanity, and money—resemble the process that nurtures offspring.
You’ve carried your book baby for months, years, maybe even decades. And when someone critiques your child, fangs emerge.

I know. I, too, would much rather tell the truth in love than hear it—especially if the person who evaluates my work isn’t perfect, either.

Suppose, for example, Ms. Bluntforce informs you that you’re feeding your little romance too many sugary adjectives or fattening your book with boring narratives. Or perhaps she says your mystery plot is so skinny, it won’t survive a second reading. If you’re like me, you want to show your teeth.

 But have you heard similar comments from others about your work? Perhaps you should check out trustworthy websites, webinars, books, or other educational materials on the subject. Has her criticism, though less than tactful, benefitted other writers? If so, then consider taking her advice.

Occasionally, though, you may encounter a critic who vivisects others’ work for fun. For the sake of your story, show those protective fangs. Give him a toothy snarl, grab your baby, and run.

How do we tell the difference? It certainly involves an ongoing process. As I’ve gained experience working with various critique groups and editors, my instinct for evaluating input has sharpened. Ironically, I don’t need fangs nearly as much as I thought. Perhaps God gave other writers and editors insights, too!—insights I should respect as I would want mine valued.  

Occasionally, though, I stand my ground with a growl to protect my baby.

How about you? How do you react to critiques of your work? Have you ever found it necessary to show your fangs?


  1. Over the years, I've learned to smile and say "thank you" no matter what the comment. After I calm down inside, I decide whether to take or leave the advice given. And I probably take more of it than I leave.

    1. I hear you, Kathryn. Strange how the longer I travel this writing journey, the smarter other writers/editors/critique partners become!