In this Part 2 of my everybody’s a critic mini series we will talk about who you should and shouldn’t listen to when being given criticism.
Understand who is giving the critique:
I am so lucky to have wonderful experienced writers in my critique group. I am the least experienced writer in the group, and admit that my knowledge of the proper use of commas, and semi colons is limited. And when did they eliminate the double space after a sentence? I have been correcting my kid’s papers incorrectly for years now. Lesson learned. But, I hope, I still bring new, fresh ideas to their stories, and feel that I’m not just receiving great edits, but giving a few too. I feel very lucky!
I have also received professional critiques, and really appreciate their feedback. I have a lot of work to do, based on their critiques, and I really look forward to it!
But what if the critiques were less than positive? What if whoever critiqued your piece didn’t get it at all, and cut it to pieces? Or even if they did like it, there was that one part… How could they not get that?
First you have to look at who is giving the critique. Is is an agent, or an editor, or is it a friend? Do they know the market? A lot of that will answer your questions as to how much the critique is of value to you. A professional who knows the market, or even an experienced writer may have more things for you to consider than a friend who may have enjoyed the story (which is great in an of itself, more on that in a few weeks), but they can’t advise how to make it better, or who to market it to.
Also think about what type of books that person prefers and look at their own personal style of writing. Even if the critique is from a professional, if your picture book is about monkeys hijacking a plane and flying to Mars, and the person who is critiquing it says “isn’t this a little unrealistic?” (something like this really happened (but not to me)), understand that the person probably doesn’t like the particular style, and seek out those who are familiar with that style instead.
My writing tends to be a bit quirky and sarcastic. It isn’t always, but for the most part I like to go for the punch line, and sometimes when I am critiquing some one else’s writing, I have to remind myself that this is their writing, and to not write it how I would.
Now that you have established whether or not they really know what they are talking about, give yourself some time to not think about the piece, and then come back to it in a week or so once the emotional response has had time to simmer down. This may happen more quickly depending on how many critiques you have received.
I have personally noticed the more I write, and the more critiques I receive, the easier it is to consider the changes. And when I say the more I write, I mean the more pieces I write. I have written, and discarded many stories. I am also working on a lot of story ideas (many of which are in the vault because I just don’t know how to finish it, or because there is that one part that isn’t right). It is so much easier to chop that one sentence that is your favorite even though you know it doesn’t fit in with the piece, when you have had to do it in the past on several other stories or chapters.
The most important thing to keep in mind is to get feedback. I know there is only so much I can bring to something before I need fresh eyes on a piece. Be brave! It isn’t as painful as you think!
Next week we will talk about how to make changes to your piece once you get that critique.
Now if you’ll excuse me… I have work to do! 🙂