When I get to cooking in the kitchen, things heat up pretty fast, expecially if I have bread in the oven. The rest of the house may be as cold as the devil's own heart, but the kitchen will be cozy. The more I bake, the warmer it gets. Add a couple more chefs--say, one simmering a big pot of vegetable beef soup and another putting the tea kettle on for some Earl Grey--and it can become uncomfortably warm. But stick around. Soon you'll have before you a steming bowl of soup, a slab of warm bread with butter melting into each crevice, and a fragrant cup of tea.
It's a little bit like a writers' critique group. Each member has a pretty good idea of what he is doing. Each has favorite recipes. Each writer works hard to arrive at the most savory results. And all contribute to the heat level of the kitchen.
There is nothing easy about any of it. For the bread to rise to its highest and lightest, conditions must be just right. It has to be kneaded properly for eight to ten minutes to develop the gluten. A warm kitchen certainly helps, but the yeast must be lively, and the flour should be the right kind. The humidity in the air plays a part. The vegetable soup is tedious to prepare, with all of its paring, chopping, and dicing. It takes time. Even the tea has it's own requirements for brewing.
When a writer submits a chapter to the critique group, it's a risk. Our writing is our favorite dish. We've chosen the finest organic ingredients available and put it together according to an original recipe. We've timed and measured, folded and beaten, sifted and stirred. And now we offer a serving to a cadre of tasters. What? They say it's too salty? Oh, but one thinks it could use a little more salt. Another says that a dash of this spice or that extract would make all the difference. Still another says, "Bam! Kick it up a notch." [LR, you know whom you are.]
That's when we must pray and use our God-given discernment. Who's right in the case of a contradiction of comments? Ultimately, it's the writer's call. It's the writer's work, after all. If multiple critiquers make the same or similar comments about a particular element of the work, the writer might be wise to seriously consider their comments. If the writer works in a different genre from the others, he likely is more familiar with the nuances of that genre than his colleagues, since he surely has read and researched it more. Further, every critiquer has her own strengths. I've been an English teacher and an editor; therefore, I tend to pick at punctuation, mechanics, and word usage. I've been told by editors and critique partners that dialogue is another of my strengths. I have a cp who often adjures me to "show, don't tell," and "lose the exclamation points." I'm getting better at both . . .I think.
I have learned so much from my critiquers, because God has blessed me with the best. For example, the hooks at the end of my chapters are stronger. I've learned that I don't have to struggle to come up with a powerful hook; I just need to end the chapter at the point of such a hook. I now tend to be more wary of tags, using them only when necessary, opting instead for action beats.
Thanks to some tough critiquers, my writer's skin is thicker. I can take the risk and accept the criticism. If it ever gets too hot in the kitchen, I'll just crack a window and let some fresh ideas blow in. I'll not be leaving.