Some Free Advice

“There are no monsters under the bed…

I’ve been having some difficulty with critiquing. Please don’t misunderstand. All writers—whether aspiring or accomplished need critique partners.

It is not easy to find what works for you and to identify what will work for others as well. Over the years I’ve been involved in multiple groups, where the support and assistance are invaluable. The people who are willing to tell you what’s wrong, and help you figure out how to fix it, are like a cool spring in the middle of the desert.

Sometimes, even constructive criticism is hard to hear.

The inability to perceive the construct in the criticism is typically due to our unwillingness to listen. So, here are a few tips that may help if you’re having difficulty getting to the heart of making the writing you’re working on saleable.

When you receive a critique don’t plunder into the material without thought. The person who provides the critique has spent their time, normally their writing time, to help you with your work. Typically to receive service in kind. So be thoughtful when you provide a critique as well.

Begin by setting aside time to review the work and do nothing else. Turn off the phone, shut down the internet, and focus on this task.

Be sure you’re open to new information. You may have planned exactly what happens next, or already written it down, plotted it out. Take this opportunity to be open to new ideas. Remember, writers are also readers. Be willing to let go of the old ideas and form some new ones. See if those are better.

Be in the moment. Think about the information offered. Do you need to ask questions? Is there something more to be accomplished with the give and take critiques require? Are you open to the discussion on improvements or clarifying points in the work?

Approach the critique with the positive intention. If you find the criticism confusing, or it seems odd, clarify. Make sure you and your critique partner are both speaking the same language.

Be persistent when working on your critique. Do not let your mind wander, or race ahead to parts plotted but not yet written. Push through and consider the advice you’re given. Sometimes it’s difficult for writers to see the tree in the forest. Occasionally others bring better ideas to the table.

Take the lead and thank the critique partner for their time. Be specific. “I appreciate your suggestions and am considering some minor rewrites.” Or “I need to set up the next event more clearly. Thanks for pointing that out.”

  Respect the time and energy the critique partner put into making the MS readable, and well-paced. Their writing may be meant to elicit emotions other than those you’ve targeted. But their input is always valuable.

When critiquing face to face, remember to look for body language clues that your partner feels underappreciated, or insulted by your “blow off” of their suggestions. Read the language you incorporate into your characters to avoid demeaning the work they did for you.

Remove ego from the communication. Be humble about the information you receive (and with the information you provide). You can pay attention to the details of the work if you do not equate ego with success.

Remember, stress or tension, such as that of first-time participants, can get in the way of effective communication. Stress affects the ability to listen. Again, read the body language if you’re given the opportunity.

Mirror the others communication skills. Being in sync with their style make it easier for them to listen and understand. Choose a similar rhythm to communicate effectively.

When you ask for help with a newly completed work, such as a beta read or a critique, the most important thing is to narrow your focus to what’s at hand.

Sometimes self-awareness means biting your tongue.

Happy Critiquing!

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