So you've written it. You've carved out a piece of your soul and
put it on the page. You love the heart of it, but you know the face
could use some freshening up. You need help.
You need a critique from your writing group and you know it. For
those of us who've been through quite a few critiques, maybe no biggie. If
you're a newer writer, just overcoming your anxiety, just coming out
of the writerly closet, this can be more daunting.
Never fear. Here are a few tips for newbies (and oldbies, for that
matter) for facing critiques:
Toughen up. This is not personal. Deep breaths. Suggestions do not
mean you need to go home weeping and burn every word you've written
down to the grocery lists. If you're really nervous, though...
Let them know up front if you need gentle handling. It's OK to say
that at this point you only need to know what they like so that
you'll have motivation to keep going. Conversely, if you want it
ripped apart, let them know. That said ...
Recognize not everyone will respect this. Some may just think
they're doing you a favor, some might have an innate need to prove
their superiority. Or both. Some might just not be thinking. Let it
go. This is their problem. And as hard as it may be …
Don't argue or defend. You're here to find out how to improve your
piece, right? Right? If you ask for advice, it's more useful to
listen than not. Which brings me to ….
Yes, listen, but discard where necessary. Not every piece of advice
will be useful. Nod your head, take your work home and blissfully
ignore the things that don't work for you. Remember ...
You will get conflicting opinions. Every writer has their
their own pet peeves and their own ideas on how to improve a piece.
That said …
Take notice if there's consensus. If every member of your group
says a character isn't believable, they're probably right. You don't
have to please every reader, but you need to please at least some.
There's no pleasing some people. Some people would manage to find
fault if Jesus himself served them breakfast in bed. (Overcooked
eggs, tsk, tsk.) Probably a subset of the ones who won't respect a
request for gentle handling. If someone (or multiple someones) like this dominate the
Find a different critique group if you need to. If there's no way to work
them out of the group, leave. Don't live with poisonous
personalities. You're not married to these people. There are other
writers. You will eventually find a group you can work with, and your
work will become better and better over time with good feedback.
What tips do you have for dealing with critiques, the good, the
bad and the ugly?