No one likes to be told what they are doing wrong. And as we get older, we like it even less. But sometimes, actually a lot of times, its necessary to learn and develop. As children, we are told, how to do the dishes, how to clean our rooms, how to brush our teeth, hot to do everything. As teenagers, again, we are told, do your homework, practice, put the video games down, and again, we are told how to do it. Once we reach adulthood, its out turn to dish out the criticism to our kids. But if we learned anything from our parents, it was hopefully how to do it correctly.
You get more flies with honey, right?
Well, if you approach criticism of someone or something they are doing the same way as the honey analogy, and make sure to give a positive before you make your suggestion for change, your critique will be better received. It doesn't mean the person will like it, but they might actually listen instead of becoming hurt or angry. Also as adults, we have to critique ourselves, and allow others to, and then we can take it or leave it. That's the great thing about criticism. You DO NOT have to agree with it.
So, that said, I LOVE criticism. Yes, I said that.
But only about my writing.
And only if it is given in a constructive way. Criticize me about me and you might want to step back, :-).
So, yes there are strings attached to my love of criticism. But getting feedback helps me become a better, stronger, writer (And if I let it, a better stronger person). As a writer, I am too close to my story. It makes sense to me, because it is coming out of my own head, but it someone else reads it and is confused, that's a red flag to clear things up a bit.
Here are a few tips to help you when either giving or receiving criticism.
1. Critiques are two way. If you want to receive, you should give. Many things can be learned from another writers works. What to do, what not to do, common errors, etc.
2. When you give feedback, think about what would be most useful to you. Don't just say, "I liked it. It was good." That tells the author nothing. Be specific. "I really liked the way her voice came out in this chapter. I got a really good sense of who she was as a person. You did a good job with that"
3. Do NOT try to rewrite someone's manuscript. Respect their story. But offer comments about setting, plot, description, characterization, dialogue, sensory details and what did and didn't work for you as a reader. Try to identify the 'why' as well. Again, be specific. "The kiss seemed to passionate for a first kiss. It should be more chaste. They are just getting to know each other and it shouldn't be rushed."
4. Don't summarize your work, or apologize for it. You wrote it. Be proud of it. But if something is not clear to your reader, don't try to explain it. If they didn't get it, then that means you need to rework it.
5. Remember, you don't have to agree with everything someone says. Takes the bits that make sense and forget the rest, but be respectful to what is being said. And don't take things personally. It is not you being critiqued, but your writing sample.
6. If you are part of a group, decide on an agreed number of pages or maybe one chapter for critique. Or set a time limit. Different things work for different groups. An online group can usually be sent more at a time where as a face-to-face group may not have time for something as big as a chapter. Discuss it amongst the group, majority rules.
7. Most important of all. Have FUN! This is such a great process, despite the possible frustrations. Trust your fellow critiquers, remember to value everyone's time and commitment, but enjoy it.
Stephanie N. Pitman, Author
The written word is magical...
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