I’ve never been a cheerleader types… well, except that time in eight grade, but I came to my senses before the tryouts. I don’t think it counts. Anyway, I’m not big on the whole cheering-on thing. I never have been. This isn’t to say I don’t care, because I do. I love the Broncos and can call the Hogs alongside the most rabid of fans. I’m just more likely to cast a critical eye at performance than get caught up in the rush of excitement. When the chips are down, I shrug and acknowledge defeat.
I’m not cheerleader material.
I recently saw something rating kinds of critique partners which called the first-rung level the cheerleader, the one who encourages. She ignores it when you stumble in favor of saying you’re doing great. When you think you can’t get to the finish she reminds you how far you’ve come and gives you a push. She keeps you going and celebrates with you when you cross that finish line.
I’m not down on the cheerleaders. People need encouragement, especially when they are trying something new and overwhelming, like writing a novel. Writing is hard. There is little reward and the odds of ever holding a book with your name on the front are harsh. If anyone needs cheerleaders, it’s writers.
I can’t do that. When I get something to crit, be it a page or a novel, I look for what needs fixed and forget to leave comments on what’s working. It’s a bit of a failing. I don’t mean to do it that way, but when it’s reading good, I just go with the flow.
But when it isn’t… duck and cover.
I’ve sliced, diced, skinned, and filleted several manuscripts. Sometimes just a paragraph, other times the whole thing. I’ve given mini-grammar lessons, pointed out plot holes, and told people to cut up to 5000 words. I even told one person to throw away the whole thing because it flat-out didn’t work. I don’t snark or poke fun, but I’m not one to overlook something I think can be improved.
I guess it works on some level because people come back for seconds and thirds. Some have sent me a page and (after recovering from the stake through the heart of their pride) they ask for more.
I can take a hard, point-blank crit just as easily as I can give one. If you think it’s a problem, mark it. If it stops the flow, hit me. If it just doesn’t make sense to you, please let me know. Seeing where I can improve and watching the comment bubbles vanish is my kind of cheerleading. It keeps me moving.
We don’t all need the same kind of cheering-on. A harsh read can be as encouraging as pure motivational oomph.
Which means I might be a cheerleader after all.