Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Critiques...the Good, the bad, and the ugly

Don't be afraid of critiques, instead learn to use them.
Critique—just mention of the word can make me break out in hives. Don’t get me wrong, I really like to get feedback on my writing, as long as it’s positive. But there’s the rub, a steady diet of positive critiques alone doesn’t help me grow as a writer. Now, I’m not one of those who believe positive feedback is worthless. I like to know what I’m doing well, so I can do more of it. But, I also want to know where I need improvement.

You might say I’m a glutton for punishment. I regularly enter pieces in contests. I’m a member of a monthly critique group and a member of an intensive, weekly critique group. And that doesn’t count all the rejection letters I have in my files from articles and manuscripts that haven’t made the grade. I’ve definitely had my fair share of painful critiques. But this post isn’t an invitation to a pity party. I just want to share some of my coping techniques when it seems like no one can say anything good about what I’ve written.
Don't try to accept everything, give it time
  • Take it in, then let it sit – I have to have time to process negative comments. (I don’t seem to need the same time to process the positive ones—go figure). I usually go back and reread the negative comments 48 hours later and that gives me the perspective to know what I need to do to improve.
  • Realize you’re in control – ultimately it’s your story and you can decide what works and what doesn’t. Just because a critique partner says it doesn’t work, doesn’t mean she’s right. You get to make the call.
  • Seek out a second opinion – sometimes I don’t know if a comment is truly valid or not. When that happens, I ask several people I respect for their opinion. If one person stumbles over a sentence, it’s not a big deal. But if half the people you show it to stumble, you probably need to do something.
  • Be polite – generally, someone who takes the time to critique your work wants you to succeed. It helps make the negative comments easier to take if you remind yourself of that. Occasionally you’ll run across someone who rips your manuscript to shreds just to prove how smart they are. It happens to all of us and we just have to consider the source of the critique and move on.
Don't be afraid to show others your work
So don’t be afraid to show others your work. Ultimately, no matter how painful, it will improve your writing. I’ve  published four books and thousands of articles. And I can assure you that all those painful critiques are a large part of my success.

Now it’s your turn. What tips do you have for processing a negative critique?

Don’t forget to join the conversation!


  1. Oh Edie, my first real critique was from you last year at the Writers Boot Camp. I was a nervous wreck going in because I didn't know what in the world you'd say. In fact, I remember Nan having to calm me down before I sat down with you. But in the end, the critique was very helpful and positibe. Even now, I try to center my writing around the suggestions you gave. Love you, sweet friend!

  2. I laughed at your opening--I too am a glutton for punishment! I treasure my critique partners' feedback. They help me see things beyond grammar and basics. Sometimes contest results verify we're on the right track while pointing out places we can improve. Anything to help me grow!

  3. Edie,
    I have learned so much from the critiques I have received and I think it motivated me to sharpen my skills and become a better writer. I also appreciated the kindness given when sharing the negatives. When you know someone really cares for you and wants to help you grow as a writer, you are more than willing to listen and learn.
    Thanks for sharing Edie and have a Happy Thanksgiving!

  4. I love my critique groups. They're so good at lovingly pointing out ways to improve every story, and they're usually spot on.

  5. Critique groups make you a better writer. It's too easy to lose perspective, especially something you've been working on for a long time. It's not always easy, but it IS always worth it.
    Thanks, Edie. Hope you have a fabulous Thanksgiving!

  6. I welcome critiques! I'm very new to this and have a lot to learn, so critiques help me tremendously. I'm glad you pointed out that we are in control. Knowing that helps me to understand that the suggestions made do not have to be used. Happy Thanksgiving!

  7. I've been wanting some critiques for my blog since I started it, but I can't figure out where to go to get them.

    Do you have any suggestions about where to start? Thank you!