Anytime our stories leave our hands they are seen by readers. Readers with opinions.
Life would be wonderful if all readers thought our words changed their heart, softened their spirits, and engaged them in a warm connection with our characters.
Sometimes our words will.
Sometimes our words won't.
Standing in the midst of writing contest season, and preparations for this year's conferences, I thought we could talk about thank you notes. The chore we rarely find time to do.
But, today--I will give you some reasons to turn a chore into a blessing.
Here is a tale of two writers:
#1 Recently a new writer joined a crit group. She said she had so many stories swirling around in her head. She just wanted to tell them. Readers had confirmed her gift for weaving a great plot. Their words energized her desire to get the stories written.
Her enthusiasm was inspirational. The problem was, she didn't want to take the time to learn the craft. When one of the crit partners pointed out a few issues for writer #1 to work on, she said, "Couldn't I just get one crit partner to help me write my stories? I don't have time for that."
This is where the communication broke down between writer #1 and her crit group.
*Unless we hunger to learn the craft, we will never find the key to open the door for our stories.
You may be wondering what this all has to do with thank you notes. Hold on--there is a point, I promise.
#2 Last year I participated in judging a writing contest. One particular piece had an interesting plot and clearly was written by a novice. I was careful to select only a few pointers for the person, addressing common mistakes beginners make. The writer sent me a thank you note stating she had wanted to write a story for a long time and my comments had encouraged her to study the craft of writing and to work diligently on her story.
In a way I felt quite surprised. I thought about all the times I received comments from judges and crit partners, and how often I only thanked those who gave me the feedback I wanted to hear.
Writer #2 taught me a great lesson.
Sure some crits can be difficult to absorb. But, like a medicine, the eyes of a judge, crit partner, or beta reader can bring light to problems and start the healing process.
How can we receive and benefit from a crit/score sheet?
1. Thank God for the opportunity to learn.
2. Ask God to help you see the changes needed to make your manuscript shine.
3. Address only one crit/comment at a time. Read it thoroughly. Consider why the reader might have viewed the words this way.
4. Take a big breathe and slowly release the tight grip on the words.
5. Reread the section addressed by the reader out loud. Close your eyes. Try to envision the issue. Do you need to clarify, cut, enhance, breathe life into the portion of words?
6. Reread the reader's comment/crit.
7. Now decide.
Would the recommended change improve your words?
Should you leave the words the way you had them?
8. Go to the second issue addressed by the reader and repeat the above.
In all truth, I don't think writer #1, the one with stories swirling in her mind and no time to learn the craft, would bother to go through these steps. These efforts would take too much time. She'd much rather pay someone to write her stories, which is okay, if that is what she wants to do.
BUT time invested in pondering judges/crit partners/beta reader's comments helps us see:
*telling instead of showing
9. After the last comment/crit issue is addressed, there is one more important task. No matter how sweet or gruff the reader was, a thank you note should be sent. The individual took the time to address issues for you to accept or reject. Who knows. Maybe that person was used by God for such a time as this to polish your words for His glory.
Humbling yourself to send the thank you note finalizes this particular experience.
It's never too late to send those notes, by the way. I usually work through my crit, or judge's comment sheet then mention at least one area where the person helped me improve my craft. Sending a thank you before going through the crit, and considering the issues may prevent you from seeing the process through and personalizing the note.
Let's talk about thank you notes we've received…for anything.
Mary has moved to Michigan with her husband, closer to her three college kids. She misses the mountains of Montana, but loves seeing family more often. She writes contemporary and romance Christian fiction, is honing marketing and writing skills, and loves to pen missionary and Bible adventure stories on her ministry blog, God Loves Kids.