Friday, December 11, 2015

Seeing Red—In Christmas & (Writing) Critiques

by Vonda Skelton @VondaSkelton

Seeing Red in Christmas & Critiques
What color reminds you of Christmas?

Red is one of my favorite colors all year long, and it’s definitely my favorite color in December.

It’s safe to say that Christmastime brings out the red in us. Everything from our wardrobes to the decorations to the wrapping paper choices proclaim our love for all things red. All things, that is, except the manuscript. If we’re not careful, blood-colored marks on our carefully-written pages can cause us to see red!

The first time I had my work critiqued by an editor, I was shocked! Didn't she know all my teachers said I was a good writer?

Critiques can sometimes be a painful process.
Apparently not. Every page—no, every paragraph, well…actually most every line--had red markings! What was wrong with that editor? Didn't she recognize good writing when she saw it? Obviously, she just didn't get me and my work.

So I moved on, sending the same manuscript out to other editors and publishers. Oh, I made a few minor changes—after all, I could see that perhaps my manuscript might need a little tweak here or there. But my attitude was unchanged. Didn't she realize it was my story, not hers?

For years, I worked with that attitude. And no, I'm not proud of it today.

Whatever we're called to, we need to work hard at the craft.
Whatever we're called to—whether it’s to be a doctor or a cosmetologist or a writer—we need to work hard at the craft. We need to know our stuff. We need to take the training, learn the lessons, and embrace the critique in order to be the best doctors or cosmetologists or writers we can be.

So now, after many years in the industry, when someone critiques my writing, I feel cheated if they simply say, "That's great. I love it." In order to get better, to reach more people with my words, I need to create the best quality work I possibly can. Your stamp of approval on my sloppy work wouldn’t help me achieve that goal.

I hope you don't waste the years I wasted, trying to convince myself that I was right and everyone else was wrong. I pray that you quickly develop a heart that yearns for correction so that your words can be worthy words; words that you—and God—don't have to be ashamed of.

Have you had a critique that initially caused you to see red? If so, did you later discover that perhaps your words weren’t quite as well-written as you thought they were? Don’t forget to join the conversation!

Christmas blessings,

Vonda Skelton is a speaker and the author of four books: Seeing Through the Lies: Unmasking the Myths Women Believe and the 3-book Bitsy Burroughs mysteries for children 8-12 yo. She’s the founder and co-director of Christian Communicators Conference, offering speakers’ training and community for Christian women called to ministry. Vonda is a frequent instructor at writer’s conferences and keynotes at business, women’s, and associational events. You can find out more about Vonda, as well as writing opportunities and instruction at her writer’s blog, The Christian Writer’s Den at


  1. Vonda, Thank you for your transparency. I just had a portion of a flash fiction story edited by Jerry B. Jenkins (I am taking one of his on line courses) I thought it was good. He corrected my many errors and I am forever grateful. I would have been hurt if it were not for you, Edie, Alton, Cec Murphy, Jerry and many other great writers stating the truth about writing
    It is difficult
    Expect Rejection
    Keep Learning
    Read to become a better writer...and more.
    Thank you for investing in us.

    1. Hi Cherrilynn, thank you for joining in! Yes, it was a hard lesson for me to learn, but once I did, I was finally able to make progress in my writing journey!

  2. Vonda, let me get in line right behind you in thinking my beginning attempts at writing were stellar and did not need any editing ... at all. These days I strive to keep learning from the red ink and press on.

    1. You may not believe this, Sandy, but I didn't even edit my first submissions. After all, I reasoned, I had edited as I wrote the book! UGH! What a hardhead I was!

  3. I do so hate to be wrong...again. That’s my byline. I am thankful for the ones that know the best way. Thanks, Vonda, for sharing from the heart. Merry Christmas!

    1. I LOVE your byline! Merry Christmas to you and your family as well!

  4. Vonda, thank you for speaking truth in love. I read way back in my college days that we learn more from our mistakes than from all the things we do right. I would consider this a part of my growth on this writing journey as I work to learn this craft. I love red too! All year round. Christmas blessings to you and your family.

    1. It's easy to see that you are a wise writer, Debra! I could be hard on myself for all that time I wasted, but at least I have some great examples of bad examples from my writing life! :-) Christmas blessings to you as well!