My online critique group for Writers of the Future is currently the middle of reading and criticizing/praising one another's stories. I have commented on four stories so far with one waiting in my inbox. Likewise, I have received four critiques.
I'm encountering an interesting batch of comments this time around. Every one has been positive, with three suggesting this story could make finalist. God, I love reading that. After the praise, though, every one of them has a but. Now comes the interesting part: Every but is different. One says the story isn't science fiction enough. Another says my sentence structures are too long and complicated. Another had nitpicks. The last one had several smallish concerns.
I remember reading in Stephen King's "On Writing" that when several of his first readers have the same concern with a story, he knows he has something to fix. When they all come back with different concerns, he has done his job right. I'm keeping that in mind as I go through the process of sorting through the critique comments and figuring out which ones to listen to and which to ignore. There's no exact science involved in this. Mostly I follow my gut instinct and hope my gut knows what it's doing.
P.S. There's the most beautiful orange sunset over the mountains right now. One of the reasons I love Colorado. Now, if we can do away with the snow ...