Lessons Learned for being Critiqued

Continuing my critiquing series I had going before my book launch on Tuesday, I wanted to finish up with some notes on how to be critiqued.

Now, if all the comments on your work were handled in the format I gave, there shouldn’t be much to complain about, but, as a person who has both given and received a lot of criticism for writing, I have a few notes here.

Keep your mouth shut!

Seriously. Just don’t talk. You are asking for feedback on your work. You aren’t defending a thesis. If people don’t understand things, let them get it off their chest. Don’t defend, explain, or interrupt. Just listen and take notes.

Thank them.

Critiquing takes a lot of time/energy/skill. That person has taken time out of their day to critique your shitty writing, so be grateful someone is doing it for you.

Ask clarifying questions

Don’t just ask “did you like this part” ask specific questions about specific parts. “When Suzie attacked the groom at Brenda’s wedding, did you get the sense that she was being mind controlled or did you think she was doing it only out of jealousy?” Things like this get conversations going. Maybe no one picked up on the fact that Suzie was being mind-controlled, and you might want to go back and fix something to make it more clear.

Thank them again.

Seriously, your writing sucks.

Don’t explain.

It’s like telling a joke. If you had to explain it, it’s most likely that your writing didn’t sufficiently explain what you were trying to do there. I see this all the time with my own writing. I get some “cute” turn of phrase or obscure reference to a (usually 30 Rock) tv show that I cram into my writing and everyone is simply confused what I was talking about. Just nod, say thank you, and note to fix it later.

Sift through the feedback carefully.

Depending on your group makeup, longevity, interpersonal relationships, you have to color all feedback you receive through those lenses. The writing group I’ve been in consists mostly of women, who all write varying amounts of romance into their works. Since I don’t read romance, I frequently miss the whole point of the scene was to build-up or tear-down the relationship between the two characters. Instead, I get into the weeds on how the room looked or the blocking. (She tried throwing the lamp at him but she was on the wrong side of the room.) Things like this aren’t really “bad” per se, but I really don’t see the forest for the trees when I get into romance scenes. Because of this, my comments on the romance sections are probably ignored and I’m totally fine with this.

That’s all for today, and for this series. I think I’ll move onto another topic starting tomorrow. If anyone wants me to go off on a subject for a week or so, please let me know!

Till tomorrow,

Tom

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