Thursday, January 26, 2017

Don’t be Stupid About Writing Critiques

by Henry McLaughlin @RiverBendSagas

It’s not often we read the word “stupid” in the Bible, especially directed against ourselves.

But it’s there in Proverbs 12:1. In four different versions I consulted. The Contemporary English Version seems the most direct: To accept correction is wise, to reject it is stupid.

One could say any version with the word stupid in it is pretty direct. Kind of like stepping on the wrong end of a rake.

That rejection letter has some gems of correction. That pitch session that didn’t go well offers correction, not necessarily about our book but about how we present our ideas, and ourselves. The critique group that doesn’t get us is offering correction. The writing coach and the editor are there to help us. Rejecting their correction is stupid.

I’ve learned from experience: Don’t be stupid.

Don’t reject the correction or its source because it doesn’t agree with us, because it doesn’t appreciate the beauty of our work. Accept that our work isn’t beautiful to everyone.

We get better when we learn, when we seek input from others, when we risk sharing our stories.

Why do I submit to critique groups and writing coaches and mentors? If I do it to be praised, I might as well stand in front of a mirror and read it to myself.

Admit not everyone will praise our work. Recognize some are genuinely motivated to help us. Those are the ones we listen to. They’re the ones we yoke with on our writing journey, to encourage and challenge, to correct our writing and get better.

God wants us to be the best we can be at what he’s called us to do. He puts others in our life to teach and correct us. Pray over the correction and seek his counsel to pull out those gems he wants us to have.

And don’t be stupid.

Don't be stupid about #writing critiques - @RiverBendSagas on @EdieMelson (Click to Tweet)

How to handle #writing critiques without being stupid - @RiverBendSagas on @EdieMelson (Click to Tweet)

Henry’s debut novel, Journey to Riverbend, won the 2009 Operation First Novel contest. 

He serves as Associate Director of North Texas Christian Writers. 

Henry edits novels, leads critique groups, and teaches at conferences and workshops. He enjoys mentoring and coaching individual writers. 

Connect with Henry on his blogTwitter and Facebook.


  1. I would not be published if not for my wonderful critique partners! I've had 5 and 3 who have stuck with me for 13 years. Michelle Griep and Elizabeth (Lisa) Ludwig don't pull punches. Recently, I've been writing a novella in a different genre. I usually write women's fiction and this is romance. It STUNK! My critique looked like I was a newbie writer. LOL And I LOVED it! It was exactly what I needed to get me on track. We started out together as fairly new writers and grew together. We're all published now and still send each other our work. What's the best part is when it goes to our publishers, it very, very clean.

    SO I urge every writer to have good crit partners and pay attention to them. If 2 comment on something, don't bother to question. Change it. :o)

    All typos are the fault of Siri.

    1. My writing partners and I have been together for over six years. I love how they are totally honest with me as well as encouraging.
      I think it's awesome when God brings the right people into our lives for building lifelong relationships.

  2. This is great, Henry. I especially love the part about standing in front of the mirror if all you want is praise. As an editor, I say amen. It’s such a joy to work with writers who are teachable and ready to take writing to another level. But as a writer, I also say amen. Two friends are in the process of critiquing one of my novels, and I asked both to be painfully honest … no fluff. That’s the way we learn and grow. :)

  3. Hi Henry, Amen! Learning how to accept constructive criticism (critiques) has been a hard learning curve for me. And bless my poor critique partners' hearts! I was so defensive when we first formed our critique group. But I learned to realize that their points were valid and that their eyes saw what mine didn't. I also love your line about standing in front of a mirror. I still don't like critiques, but I know now they make my writing stronger and better. I just got my lowest review yet, a 3*, and I could read it without breaking down. I realized what the reviewer said was his or her point of view and not necessarily everyone else's, that maybe I could have done better in certain areas (and I'll try to do so next time), but I also laughed because he/she criticized something I wanted readers to notice. I was glad he/she noticed! But I also know now that you really can't please everyone all the time and you can't because we're all different with different tastes, so even critiquers might not get what we're trying to do, but it never hurts to listen. They might be right.

  4. Great insights, Marilyn. When I first started and DiAnn Mills mentored me, I learned the value of developing that thick skin to learn and grow and I also learned to receive each critique with an open mind and then harvest what was valuable to me as a writer.

  5. Thank you, Henry, I welcome critiques. I look at Beta Readers and critique partners as part of a team. We write for the Lord, our work needs to be it's best. My Beta Reader have found flaws that if not corrected, would confuse the reader. I praise God for them.