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Apr 13, 2021

Prettiest Book in the Book Show

By: KD Powell

I’ve been on CritiqueMatch for quite a while. I’ve seen a lot of new people appear and vanish as soon as they arrive. Cruising the ‘search partners’ feature is a good way to see who is active on the site and who is not. People like myself and a few others will often be in the first few pages of the site while some drift all the way to the back pages or vanish altogether. I always wonder why they left and what happened, even if I’m not partnered with them. Now, most people go inactive on the site for practical and personal reasons. Maybe they only have a limited amount of time because of work, school, or personal stuff. 

But some disappear because they gave up writing. I’ve thought about it. Who hasn’t? We all get to the point in our story where we want to unplug our laptops and throw them out a window. Many people on the site are more than just critique partners. When you work with them long enough, they can often become your friends. Now, can you jump through your computer like it’s an interdimensional portal, pop out of theirs, and stop your friend or partner from deleting their story and giving up? Of course not. 

What can you do to help? It's easy to think of critiquing as picking apart someone’s story, finding all the flaws you can, and sending it back. That’s what it’s about, right? You’re supposed to find problem areas so people can fix them? Whether it be grammar, plot, character, or whatever issue it may be. Sure, this is important; it’s the key thing that will help improve your partner’s work. But your partner won’t have any work to improve if they get so frustrated with their story they take a hammer to their laptop and bury it in the backyard. Many people will write whatever they want and plow through any obstacle to get it published, no matter the feedback they receive. Some authors can shoot book bullets out of a metaphorical machine gun without a care in the world. But not everyone is like that. 

To some people, letting someone see your book is like entering your precious puppy into a dog show. Yeah, you know it’s not the prettiest dog or the smartest. It barks at everyone, tries to eat everything, and pees everywhere — but it has a lot of heart! Your dog is just as good, and you know it. It just needs a little training and love. When the other dogs and owners laugh or bark at it, it’s tempting to take that dog home and protect it from the cruel world. But the thing about dogs is they don’t know what’s going on. As long as you let them sniff the other dogs’ butts and give them a piece of bacon after the show, they are just as happy as if they won best in show. It’s the same thing with your book, and you don’t even have to give it bacon!

The owner is very aware of the criticism. To many writers, that book is just as precious as a puppy. So, if all they receive on a day-to-day basis is criticism, no matter how helpful, they might take that precious little book home and keep it away from prying eyes. They will treat it like a scared little chihuahua, put it in a dog sweater, and never let it out of the house. It isn’t just about protecting their feelings as a writer or as a person; the writer may feel like they are protecting the book itself because it feels real to them. They don’t want their book to face the harsh criticism and the perils of real life. So rather than only helping your partner train their misbehaving dog book, say something nice about it too once in a while. The book won’t care, but the writer will. If they know that some aspect of their book is entertaining, it will go a long way into giving them the confidence to let it out of the house someday.

About the author
You can follow KD Powell on Twitter at @Rainbowtron360