I never know what emotion I am going to feel when getting a critique back--excited, anxious, frustrated, all of the above?
For me, getting a critique of my WIP returned is the most difficult part of writing. And it isn't about what the critiquer says--it is about getting back into the rhythm of the text and trying to implement the changes. In order to struggle though this, I've made myself a specific agenda that I follow for critique revisions.
Step One: Read though all the suggestions. Then close the document and walk away. I wait at least a week before making any changes. I'm thinking about it that entire time--my brain is organizing and evaluating, but I don't make any changes yet.
Step Two: Get back into the text. I work on a second WIP while the first is out on revision vacation, so there is always a break, which helps me get perspective, but also creates some distance for me with the critiqued WIP. I get back into it by reading my favorite section. For my current WIP, that happens to be the last four pages. But it not always the end--for Gone it is this one kissing scene Mmmm...kissing scene.
Step Three: Make all the little changes first (awkward/confusing sentences, deleting extra words, etc). I do this for a few reasons. First, it gives me a sense of accomplishment. Second, some of these changes are hard to find after the larger changes are completed. And even if the sentence in question doesn't make it into the final draft, I still learn by making the changes. I understand sentence structure and diction and syntax better with every single change. I don't want to forgo that learning just because a section is deleted.
Step Four: Make a list of all the larger changes suggested and classify them: changes to make, changes to consider, suggestions to shelve (for now). For the changes to consider, I decide not to change the text now but pay special attention to what a second critique partner says. Suggestions to be shelved are those tidbits of advice that I don't think fit in my overall concept of the text. But, but, but--I keep this list so that if other critique partners make the same suggestions, I re-evaluate.
Step Five: Plan out the larger changes I intend to make. I make a change outline that addresses specifically how I plan to alter the text. I do this because I want to be sure of the changes. Why? Because I don't save previous versions of my novels. I do this intentionally. There is no going back, which means I take the changes very seriously. If I delete a scene or chapter, then it is gone for good. Something about it wasn't working anyway, so if I need a section back, I re-write it.
Step Six: Print out and re-read after all the new, shinny changes. Smile at completing a rewrite/revision and send it out again!