If you worked with me at Barnes & Noble, then you’ve heard of “The Love Sandwich.” The Love Sandwich was my method of writing employee reviews. Your review starts with a positive statement about your employee’s performance. Then, you deliver your criticism in the second paragraph. Finally, you conclude by telling your employee that you recognize his or her positive qualities and that you have confidence that he or she can address potential challenges. Good, then bad, then good. The Love Sandwich.
Today, I received my own decidedly not tasty Love Sandwich in the form of an e-mail from my writing mentor in my MFA program. I had sent him the first three chapters of my novel to read about a week ago and, of course, I had been checking my e-mail every 20 seconds Today, I received his commentary. Good, bad and then…okay, so he forgot the last part of The Love Sandwich, the second good part.
“On the plus side, your writing is clean and easy to read.” Hmm. My first grade teacher’s writing was the same way. So was the Unabomber’s. I continued reading.
“Your characters are well-introduced and well-identified.” Oh, good, I got their names right consistently. Another plus.
He went on to say that he liked the first chapter and that I had set up several potentially powerful conflicts. Not as powerful as the Trojan War, but still powerful.
“But…there are some problems here that you need to address.” Uh oh. The next thing I knew, I was reading four very lengthy paragraphs about the problems with my work. Too much exposition, a shift in point of view that he didn’t like. His criticisms were helpful and valid, but I’m not used to being on the other side of the table having my ass handed to me. As a corporate lackey, I handed out criticism the way that Latter Day Saints pass out The Book of Mormon. I’m not used to being in the position of taking my own dosage of “You suck.”
No worries. His insights will help a lot once I stop wanting to douse my book with gasoline and burn it. He did conclude by saying, “I’m happy to work with you on this.” That’s something, right?
Lesson learned: Keep your eyes open for karma. The Love Sandwich was not as palatable as I had imagined.