A couple weeks ago, I had the privilege of reading a fellow aspiring author's manuscript. Her first page caught my eye at a contest for its awesome premise and voice, and I told her as much via Twitter (yup, I'm one of the hip kids now). She asked if I'd be willing to take a closer look as a critique partner and of course I said YES!
Which meant I got to play editor, kind of. Saying that is like saying I've run a mile so now I'm a marathoner, but my manuscript's been through enough critiques at this point that I had a pretty good feel for what I needed to point out, and maybe more importantly, what I didn't. She sent me her ms, I said I'd try to get back to her in two weeks. I couldn't wait to start. I cracked it open that night.
I finished the next day.
Part of that was because the hubs was out of town and I really needed a lazy day to just stay in and relax. Don't get me wrong—I'm not a super fast reader—and between the night I opened it and the time I sent her my notes, I probably spent 11+ hours on it. Also helped that I really liked what I was reading and that my CP had clearly spent time polishing beforehand. But the coolest part was seeing this part of the process from the other side, because it's completely changed how I'll view criticism on my own work.
As I wrote my notes, I thought about when I'd seen similar comments in my own ms, and how—unlike what I'd been thinking—those suggestions took away none of my love for the story. I was still hooked on the characters, the plot, the potential. Sure, some things could be tightened and I had some questions after I finished, but my overall impression stayed the same: love it.
Manuscripts like hers make me realize why agents become agents and publishers love their jobs. And while I still prefer to create over editing, I can go forward knowing criticism is no big deal. It's easy to focus on the "bad" and think the rest of it made no difference. Now I know it did.