‘Guys don’t blush that much.’
It’s the comment from a peer on a 2017 Romance anthology that started me on the road of what I do today, Reader.
But why am I talking about it? Because most storytellers hate reviews. They’re considered at best, a necessary evil and at worst, something to send you into a doom spiral. Especially the critical ones.
But are all critical reviews hate mail? Or can they actually be—gasp—helpful?
And how do you separate the helpful from the haters?
In 2017 I was part of a Romance anthology and one of the agreements of participation was that we all partner up and peer critique our partner’s story. I’d never been part of an anthology before, so I was super excited.
Now the partners were assigned at random, so I’d never met this lady nor was I familiar with her work.
The first thing I learned reading her work, BDSM fiction was 100% not the genre for me. I did not enjoy a second of that story. But there was nothing wrong with the actual writing itself. It just wasn’t my cup of coffee. As such, I put a lot of time and care into my peer critique.
She, on the other hand, was a far less skilled reviewer. Let me explain.
This was before I switched to writing Boys Love—as in stories with Male/Male pairings. So my story featured a male lead but with a female love interest.
Now because of what she writes, she was expecting my male lead to be the dominant Alpha Male archetype. I don’t write that. I’ve never written that. And I have no intention to.
That’s not to say there’s a problem with that type of character or the readers who enjoy that fiction. It’s just not what I create.
But instead of realizing that in the first page or so that he was a different sort of character, this storyteller spent the entirety of the story—35,000 words worth!—complaining he blushed too much. Seriously she marked every single time. It was ridiculous.
In her entire critique, she offered nothing helpful or constructive to improve my storytelling or further myself as a writer.
Or did she?
Because here’s the thing, Reader. I was salty about what this storyteller had said about my male lead for nearly 2 years until I thought about it a little more and I realized some things:
So in the end her seemingly unhelpful criticism of my story was the best thing that ever happened to me as a storyteller.
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