Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Advice to Newbies on Accepting Critiques

By Susan

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. However...

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 group....

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?

3 comments:

John Paul McKinney said...

Very good and compassionate advice. "Jesus serving you breakfast in bed," reminds me of a friend who complained that if his wife had been at the miracle of the loaves and fishes, she would have said, "What, no tartar sauce?"

Patricia Stoltey said...

Excellent advice, Susan. It helps to always have one person in control of the discussion (we designate the hostess that evening as goddess). That way, if a discussion goes off track or the hammering a point home gets out of control, the hostess can apply the brakes.

Susan Mark said...

That's funny, John. :)

That's a good idea to use one person as a moderator, Patricia. I will have to remember that one.

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