Friday, November 7, 2014

The Critique Survival Guide

Have you ever submitted your work to a detailed critique or edit?

If not, why not?

I believe that getting detailed, line-by-line feedback, whether from other writers or from paid professionals, is a vital part of the writing process. A necessary step along the way to polishing work for publication, and for self-improvement as a writer.

But, it can be a brutal and dispiriting process.

Next week, I'm giving a talk at my local library on how to receive and handle critiques.

I've based the talk around a series of blog posts I wrote last year.

The aim of the posts was to give tips on how to handle the pain of critiques and become objective and receptive to things you may not want to hear, how to look for points worth taking note of, pitfalls to avoid, and exercising judgment. As well as fleshing these themes out more thoroughly, I've book-ended them with the need to get onto the critiquing road, and some practical pointers on working with online critique groups.

Now I've expanded my notes into a ninety-minute talk, and I wonder if they could be developed further into a short e-book. If I did something like that, the aim would be to make it a freebie.

Do you think there would be interest in such a book? And how do you handle blunt critiques?


  1. I hope your talk goes well! I think this is a topic a lot of beginning readers need to hear more about, so an e-book might be a good idea.

  2. painful but necessary

  3. Hi Ian - I'm sure you're talk with interest the locals and they get a chance to question you ...

    I'd have thought an ebook would be a good idea ... cheers Hilary

  4. Jean, that was what I was thinking.

    Delores, very true.

    Hilary, I hope it's of interest. My main nervousness right now is not the speaking, it's wondering how many will bother to turn up :)

  5. I like blunt critiques, and give them myself. With a healthy dose of encouraging words to soften the angst. I won't critique someone who only wants to hear nice things about their work.

  6. The way i handle blunt critiques is to write a lot. Back when I wrote very little, it troubled me deeply when someone didn't like something. Six hundred stories later I just shrug; can't please everyone. I do agree with you, though, that an impartial critique can be very useful.

  7. You should put together a book.
    I've had many critiques, from critique partners and my publisher's editor. So far most have been fair, letting me know both what I'm doing right and doing wrong.

  8. Donna, the one thing I ask above all else from a critique is honesty, but that can be tough to hear which is where the skills I'm talking about come into play.

    Stephen, just wondering if you are talking about critiques or reviews here. They are two very different animals. What you describe sounds like a good way to handle reviews.

    Alex, you're an experienced writer and you've obviously developed your own ways to handle the feedback by now. If I do a book I think the main audience is newcomers, those hesitant to dive in, and those struggling with what they are hearing.

  9. I think it's a great idea, Ian! I'd recommend it to every new writer. Having given thousands of critiques myself and receiving almost as much, I've pretty much run the gauntlet. I live by the "honest, but nice" philosophy when giving critiques, because those are the ones I've learned the most from. Overly harsh (This is crap) or overly nice (It's perfect!) does nothing for me. Tell me why it's good or bad and make suggestions for improvement. Now THAT'S a critique.

  10. Hi Botanist! I thought I'd read/commented here, but no. Critiquing is fraught, but necessary. How could we survive without our CPs?

    I'm hoping you might find the time to travel across to Oz to comment on my blog--What are you writing? A chance to share what you're writing this month. It's a fun thing to do.

    BTW I have changed my blog URL (stupid! stupid! stupid!) and my new address is:

    If you have me on your blogroll you'll need to delete the old address and copy whatever shows up when you visit me. Apparently google puts your country code after URLs, not the country of origin.

    Hope to see you!

    Denise :)

  11. Mysti, "tell me why" - that's the key to a good critique. Lots of advice out there on how to give a good critique but not so much on how to receive, and some folks just can't, no matter how tactfully you phrase it.

    Denise, thanks for the new link. Will update immediately!


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