Critique tracking via spreadsheet

Well, the new draft of “The Landing” has been finalized, and sent off both to Chris McKitterick at the CSSF in Kansas, but also to Lightspeed magazine.

I was more than a little daunted by the prospect of going through the seventeen different critiques I received on the story from, ranging from one short paragraph all the way up to one critique approximately three-quarters the word count of the submitted story! I copied them all from my gmail into a single text file on Thursday night, and tried to go over some of them Friday night at Runnymede, but didn’t really get that far.

So, yesterday night, I finally got systematic. I set up an Excel spreadsheet file, starting one tab with a list of the different critiques, including the origin email, the starting and ending position in my text file, and working out how long each critique was in lines. This was then sorted in ascending order of length, so that I could start with the shorter critiques and work up progressively through longer and longer ones.

(I formatted the email addresses in white on a white background, to preserve the anonymity of critters.)

The second tab was made as I scanned through the different critiques, noting down different problems or suggested changes, keeping track of which points had been raised by different people, along with how serious a change I thought was required to address it, and how important an issue I thought it was:

I didn’t go all the way through my critiques; I only got up to about halfway through the list, (the shorter half, as I mentioned,) and then decided that I had enough to think about for today and didn’t want to go through any of the longer critiques. And I didn’t address everything that was on those shorter critiques either; there was the one that would have involved rewriting the first scene, which would definitely have improved the story in the long run, but I didn’t want to take a chance that I’d get it right the first time. On the other hand, I did add a mostly-new ending scene, (based loosely on one that I deleted from an earlier draft,) because so many people said that the ending was too abrupt or that my protagonist didn’t have a satisfying character arc, so I figured it was worth taking a risk to try and solve both problems at one go.

I’ll let you know when I hear back from either the magazine or the website. And post your comments if you’ve ever done a revision tracking spreadsheet yourself.

7 Responses to Critique tracking via spreadsheet

  1. Trisha says:

    Wow, sounds like you have a LOT of feedback! I look forward to getting to that stage myself 😉


  2. K. Howard says:

    I haven’t been this systematic about it, but this is a great idea! Most of my critiques are usually face-to-face, but even so, it’s helpful to note down what should and shouldn’t be changed.


  3. Donna Hole says:

    Wow, you’re organized. I think that comes from all the world developing fantasy/sci-fi writers have to endure before getting much story writing done.


    Thanks for the link; I’ll add it to my resources on my sidebar.

    I know how hard it is to receive feedback. A necessary part of the process, but sometimes painful. Just remember, its all opinion. Not all will be useful, but it is always thought provoking, and usually makes the story better.

    Good luck with your revisions Chris. and the magazine submission. Good to see you getting your stuff out there.



  4. Michael says:

    You are very organized sir.


  5. Ann Best says:

    That’s great that you got so many critques. That way you get a good idea what people think, and then you decide what you feel is relevant and what isn’t. Everyone has an opinion. But if more than a few point out something, that’s the one to think about.

    I saw you had commented on my current post. Thanks for stopping by. Just curious, since you’re on WP, how did you find me?

    I’ve been on Blogger for just over a year and now my debut memoir is launching tomorrow! So I want to keep going with Blogger, but I’m also trying to set up a WP blog to reach other audiences. Boy, at my age (71) I still can’t figure out more than the basics. But that may do. Do you know any links that might be useful–or someone?


    • Ann – I’m pretty sure that I actually found you and followed you because of your sign-up for the A-Z challenge, though I didn’t get around to posting on your blog until recently.
      And most of what I know about using WordPress, I learned by experimenting or searching on Google.


  6. I think that this is an interesting concept. I haven’t tracked anything like this but it would probably be beneficial to keep track.


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