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Writer's Corner > How do you handle critique?

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message 1: by Sarah (new)

Sarah Weldon (sarahrweldon-author) | 6045 comments Jen wrote: "I just recently posted my story on a writing/feedback website. I thought that since the whole thing is anonymous that it'd be easy for me to handle criticism. Well, my first critique was a bit hars..."

I treat them with the contempt they deserve! Kidding, I don't let it get to me,it's like water off a duck's back. Then again I don't tend to put myself in the line of fire, I prefer to let my friends read my stuff!


message 2: by Rana (new)

Rana | 26 comments I used to be this way. I look at in two ways. 1) These people, even if they may be a bit harsh like the first, were willing to take the time to critique your work professionally and honestly. So long as they don't troll, you know they mean the best for you. 2) Any time you write, you are improving your writing. Writing is always practice, and editing needs practice too! I used to think I was just a good writer and that was that. But I've learned that writing is an evolving, growing skill. The best part about writing is that there's no cut-off for improvement! Every time you write or edit, you are getting better. Take the critique as an opportunity to improve yourself and your writing. Try what they've suggested (also remember critique is always just that, a suggestion. You are the owner of your writing and you can decide whether their suggestions will improve your work or not.), keep the old version of the story and then post the new one. See what other people think of each of them, have a comparison contest! Good critique is always honest, and even if it may come across harsh, it's meant with the best intentions for you and your writing career. Look at 'negative' comments as room to grow and always appreciate the time that your critics spent to critique your work.


message 3: by Kathy (new)

Kathy (leenbee) I understand. When I first starting writing, I sent my book to a critique partner / mentor and she pulled it apart. I was quite angry with her but then I began to ponder what she said and started to change my writing. After that I got published. I'm so glad I listened to her. I didn't agree with everything, but many of the things she said were so true. I think any critique will hurt when we first hear it but just take a few days / weeks to stew over it and then you will start to see where the person is coming from.


message 4: by Sarah (new)

Sarah Weldon (sarahrweldon-author) | 6045 comments Look, listen and learn from your mistakes, and believe me when I say we all make them, I am no exception. Luckily I usually spot them on the read through before I send it out to my readers.

Usually silly mistakes, like the wrong there/their or the wrong ware/wear/were/where. Got in one, the English language is full of traps like those to trip us up! Writer beware...


message 5: by Karysa (new)

Karysa Faire (karysafaire) | 2 comments I'd also take a good internal look as to why you put your work up there--was it to improve as a writer? Was it to get positive feedback? If it's to only get positive feedback, I'd hold off on posting stuff online, especially in an anonymous group (where people generally feel more comfortable being harsh). If your motivation is to improve as a writer, take a deep breath then compare the two critiques. If there's common themes/suggestions, chances are this is where you can start.

Whenever I put my stuff out there, I always ask for specific feedback. For example, "Does this section flow?" or "What was your reaction to this character?" or "How can I make this scene more sexy/tense/funny?"

Good luck!


message 6: by Sarah (new)

Sarah Weldon (sarahrweldon-author) | 6045 comments Karysa wrote: "I'd also take a good internal look as to why you put your work up there--was it to improve as a writer? Was it to get positive feedback? If it's to only get positive feedback, I'd hold off on posti..."

Yes, I have had friends who've put their work up for these type of groups and then been really upset when their work is pulled to pieces. Reminds me of the Christians in Roman times ending up as dinner for the hungry lions!

Before jumping in feet first into a cage of hungry lions perhaps they should ask themselves if they really need too! Some of the people in those groups get a kick out of being nasty!


message 7: by Kathy (new)

Kathy (leenbee) That's true. I think a writer friend as a critique partner will be much kinder because they have a relationship with you already.


message 8: by Sarah (new)

Sarah Weldon (sarahrweldon-author) | 6045 comments Kathy wrote: "That's true. I think a writer friend as a critique partner will be much kinder because they have a relationship with you already."

Yes, and nine times out of ten they can see exactly what's needed to iron out any plot malfuntions straight away. When I review work for other writers and I find spelling errors or such I list them on an email privately, explaining exactly where the error occurred, they can then read through their work and see the problem for themselves and make the necessary alterations. And I would never publish a bad review on line, I don't do mean, if it's bad I try to let them down gently, and give advice on how to rectify it if I can.


message 9: by Kathy (new)

Kathy (leenbee) Me too. I won't post a review of a book I didn't enjoy on Goodreads or Amazon. Some people have no qualms about breaking another writer's books down to the ground.


message 10: by [deleted user] (new)

Hi.
You're not the only one that has problems with these reviews. I noticed that in some cases people tell others not to purchase the books too.
This is what happened with my ebooks. I have learned to ignore these types of things, because it's like walking down the street and someone trying to spit at you. Either you move away or let it dirty you. I have learned to keep thinking positive,because no matter what they say people will always read my work.
One thing that I learned too is that I'm the author/photographer. They are not the author of my work and their critiques don't change who I am at all. They are who they are and you are who you are.
This is a part of life. We are in the public eye now. We stand where those movie stars are at now. People will know us whether they like it or not. The future is ahead. We are authors. We write stories and they will be read whether anyone else wants it or not.
You can feel bad for a little while, but when you begin to see your royalties flowing through to you you will think so differently from any critique out there.
Great success to you. Never stop looking at the possibilities ahead. No one can take away that you're an author. Be proud. Keep on bringing those stories. There are people out there ready to read them. Always remember that. :-)


message 11: by Selena (new)

Selena I don't know how I'm going to handle that, I have a hard enough time having someone edit my rough drafts, never mind people critiquing the finished product. Thanks for the advice.


message 12: by Lisa (last edited Feb 21, 2014 10:26AM) (new)

Lisa Marie Gabriel (lisamariegabriel) | 7 comments Richard wrote: "Sometimes people just say critical things that are a matter of taste; you can learn to weed those out if you disagree. If you get five critiques that say your characters are flat, then perhaps you should run out and work on character development."

What Richard says is spot on! He gives lots of good advice. An individual review is not something to lose sleep over, but several (obviously not trolled) reviews that agree on a potential weakness might help your development as a writer.

When we write I think we get involved with our characters and love them (or hate them). The whole process of creation is part of you and is an intimate part that you are laying bare to the world when you publish. Then along comes someone who hates your story, your style, your characters, your words and if they couch the review in harsh language it is as though they have publicly and brutally assaulted your child. In reality, they haven't. They just didn't like your work for some reason beyond your control. You can control characters, but not real world people reading your books! This is even more the case if you have given it away for nothing. When readers buy, they check out the blurb and the Look Inside to see if it is to their taste. When it is free they don't care so this is an unselective process - you are not targetting a specific audience.

It is wise to walk away from the situation for a while. Don't argue. Some people are not even aware that their critique borders on rudeness. They just aren't that sensitive to nuances of language or to specific trigger phrases. Even authors can be guilty of bluntness in criticism and if you try arguing they will just tell you to develop a thick skin and insist they are right. You gain nothing from these exchanges except high blood pressure! You just have to tell yourself "Well, they are entitled to their opinion!" because we are NOT all the same. Tastes in books vary, tastes in writing style are influenced by age, education, social status, religion, politics and country of origin to name only a few variables. They maybe shouldn't tell their friends not to read your book on those grounds, but some obviously will.

If you criticise the critic they will classify you as a Badly Behaved Author or BBA. The premise is that the reader paid for your book, they gave it time and they didn't enjoy it. The outcome of arguing is to be ignored or trolled and I am not sure which of the two is worse for your career as a writer.

The real heartbreak is to give your work away and then get a bad review. You may have paid for the book and the shipping and you may be struggling financially, but the reader does not have any investment of money let alone time in your work. This is something ALL authors should consider before they do a Giveaway or ask for a review. Personally, I look at the level of understanding in any review, if it is obviously low then I don't worry. They didn't get me? I laugh it off; people don't always like us in real life, do they? They didn't like the book? Tough, some people do, some people don't. Now it's best to walk away, think about it and ask if you can learn from what has been said or if it just a "literary personality clash" and best forgotten.


message 13: by R.F.G. (new)

R.F.G. Cameron | 601 comments I suppose dealing with negative comments takes getting accustomed to, and as Richard says when multiple people are essentially arriving at the same professional conclusion you can usually accept it as valid.

One gauge is to step back and look at your work in light of several critiques. Look at the areas in question and if you can agree with what others have stated then you know what to fix.

The person who edits for me has known me for years, and she won't hesitate to tell me if she thinks something limps, needs to be fleshed out more, or needs extra eyes proofreading. Her red pen can leave a manuscript look like one of Jack the Ripper's victims.

Just remember that a good valid critique may involve items that fall under the heading of someone's personal reading taste but it also points out valid issues that can be done to make your work better.

A good critique is never about tearing an author down personally, it's about helping the author make his or her work better.


message 14: by Leonard (new)

Leonard (lendosan) | 33 comments Just to step out of the writers/readers mind set for a moment, as a manager I have a differing view when regarding feedback (as feedback is pretty much critique).

As long as the feedback points out something that needs to be improved, or works great, you don't need both a positive and a negative. That's called a "Feedback Sandwich", where you make a positive-negative-positive comment so the person doesn't feel bad. I understand that no-one likes receiving feedback, it makes us feel uneasy or creates doubt, but if read/received in the correct mind set, it can only improve your own performance.

You need to understand that when someone points something out, example "As I was reading, I realised there was zero depth to the story." it isn't because YOUR writing it (not personal) but it is still YOUR story (so you can have an impact). Feedback, or critical reviews, only serve to better yourself and story alike. If you don't like the feedback then its yourself, taking it too personally, that is at fault, not the person giving said feedback.

However, if the feedback is something along the lines of "I was reading your story and the setting sucked and you can't write." that doesn't sound like someone you want to be letting get to you. Unless its critical, well put together and easy to see where they are coming from (well explained), then ignore.

I hope I haven't drivelled on too much regarding feedback.


message 15: by Sarah (new)

Sarah Weldon (sarahrweldon-author) | 6045 comments R.F.G. wrote: "I suppose dealing with negative comments takes getting accustomed to, and as Richard says when multiple people are essentially arriving at the same professional conclusion you can usually accept it..."

LOL. I just had an edited manuscript back too, though the 'Jack the Ripper' effect was decidedly minimal...some spelling where I used slang and my editor didn't approve and the dreaded commas, though I may add in my defence, a major improvement on my last edited manuscript!

Some of the slang I decided was unecessary and I re-wrote the piece, some I left in, as, in my (the author's) opinion it was justified and in context with that piece of the story. I have a storyline which starts in France, then around chapter 13 moves to Atlanta, Georgia.. and then around chapter 22 moves back to France. It was the Atlanta slang that caused the problems.

Like I always say, 'you can't please all of the people, all of the time!' It just doesn't happen, what one person loves another will detest, the same goes for critics. I try to let negative comments wash over me - sticks and stones, and all that. Not easy, but far from impossible for according to the French,the word 'impossible' doesn't exist in their language!


message 16: by Joel (new)

Joel Jurrens | 17 comments Sarah wrote: "R.F.G. wrote: "I suppose dealing with negative comments takes getting accustomed to, and as Richard says when multiple people are essentially arriving at the same professional conclusion you can us..."

If you can't take negative reviews and criticism, you need to stop letting people read your writing immediately. Every writer gets negative reviews. Go through the reviews of the bestselling authors. Even they have critics. Falkner once said about Hemmingway, "He's never been known to use a word that might send a reader to the dictionary." Hemmingway won a Pulitzer Prize.


message 17: by Sarah (new)

Sarah Weldon (sarahrweldon-author) | 6045 comments Joel wrote: "Sarah wrote: "R.F.G. wrote: "I suppose dealing with negative comments takes getting accustomed to, and as Richard says when multiple people are essentially arriving at the same professional conclus..."

Lol I always send people running for the dictionary! Mind I have never yet found the word...supercalafragilisticexpialidocious in there!


message 18: by Joel (new)

Joel Jurrens | 17 comments Sarah wrote: "Joel wrote: "Sarah wrote: "R.F.G. wrote: "I suppose dealing with negative comments takes getting accustomed to, and as Richard says when multiple people are essentially arriving at the same profess..."

If you're interested, Hemmingway's reply was, "Poor Faulkner. Does he really think big emotions come from big words? He thinks I don't know the ten-dollar words. I know them all right. But there are older and simpler and better words, and those are the ones I use." But now we're getting of topic.


message 19: by Sarah (new)

Sarah Weldon (sarahrweldon-author) | 6045 comments Joel wrote: "Sarah wrote: "Joel wrote: "Sarah wrote: "R.F.G. wrote: "I suppose dealing with negative comments takes getting accustomed to, and as Richard says when multiple people are essentially arriving at th..."

I got told off by my editor for using the little words, I write in the third person so using he, she, they is supposed to be okay for women - men, so they say, use the Christian name of their character as oppose to he/she -but so do.

What I do use is regularly is the synonym help in word. I think of a word, type it in, and then I check out the alternatives, slotting them in and then reading the sentence back aloud.

It really annoys me when the computer doesn't give me a list, it means I then have to flick through my trusty Thesaurus which lives on my desk!


message 20: by Leonard (new)

Leonard (lendosan) | 33 comments Sarah wrote: "Joel wrote: "Sarah wrote: "Joel wrote: "Sarah wrote: "R.F.G. wrote: "I suppose dealing with negative comments takes getting accustomed to, and as Richard says when multiple people are essentially a..."

I have my iPad and my iPhone, both have dictionary and thesaurus app's so I can just type it out and, viola!


message 21: by Sarah (new)

Sarah Weldon (sarahrweldon-author) | 6045 comments Leonard wrote: "Sarah wrote: "Joel wrote: "Sarah wrote: "Joel wrote: "Sarah wrote: "R.F.G. wrote: "I suppose dealing with negative comments takes getting accustomed to, and as Richard says when multiple people are..."

I still prefer my pc, I'm a dinosaur with a smartphone and a laptop!


message 22: by Leonard (new)

Leonard (lendosan) | 33 comments Sarah wrote: "Leonard wrote: "Sarah wrote: "Joel wrote: "Sarah wrote: "Joel wrote: "Sarah wrote: "R.F.G. wrote: "I suppose dealing with negative comments takes getting accustomed to, and as Richard says when mul..."

Oh I have my trusty power laptop, that sits on my working desk, but I use the other two as distractions/aides.


message 23: by Joel (new)

Joel Jurrens | 17 comments Sarah wrote: "Joel wrote: "Sarah wrote: "Joel wrote: "Sarah wrote: "R.F.G. wrote: "I suppose dealing with negative comments takes getting accustomed to, and as Richard says when multiple people are essentially a..."

I don't get caught up in trying to use unusual words, but I do try not to repeat words if I can help it. As far as using the Christian name, I was always taught never to use it more than once in a paragraph unless you need to for clarity.


message 24: by Sarah (new)

Sarah Weldon (sarahrweldon-author) | 6045 comments Joel wrote: "Sarah wrote: "Joel wrote: "Sarah wrote: "Joel wrote: "Sarah wrote: "R.F.G. wrote: "I suppose dealing with negative comments takes getting accustomed to, and as Richard says when multiple people are..."

Yes, me too with the Christian name, but sometimes you repeat words without thinking. It's only when you edit that you find them. I finally worked out how to use showing, and not telling, in my writing too.


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