We’ve all gotten those critiques or reviews of our work where the reader has a lot of things to say of the not-good variety. As writers, we have to learn to grow a thick skin. At least, that’s what they always say. But I think that analogy is a little off as it implies being impervious, which is not exactly what we want to be. Yes, we need to learn to be tough and withstand criticism, but we also need to be able to absorb and learn from others.
During the critique and beta phases of our WIPs, we have to learn to tell the difference between helpful advice and just plain bad advice. This isn’t always easy. I touched upon a way to look at critiques in the fall, but being a new writer I’m still learning and have come upon a new fear. (Yippee! Not.) And that is…
Is my zipper down or do you just not like my pants?
I’ve been getting extremely helpful critiques from critters at critiquecircle.com as well as by fellow writers I know or have met online (Yay Twitter!) and I’ve learned a lot in the process. My writing is stronger because of it. I still have metric tons more to learn. Sometimes I’ve received critiques I haven’t agreed with, or they were trying to stamp out my voice and insert theirs, or I could just tell they didn’t like romances. These were easy to see. I’ve also had helpful feedback where mistakes and lapses were pinpointed, weak spots highlighted, or being told outright that a scene wasn’t working and why. This was gold to me. I would rather hear this kind of stuff and grow as a writer, than be patted on the head with a “that’s nice, dear” and live in blissful ignorance that my writing sucks.
Recently, however, I’ve been the recipient of a new kind of feedback (which I’m sure you veterans are familiar with) which has made the evaluation process tougher. This critiquer pretty much had something snarky to say about each scene, belittling plot choices I’d made, etc. You might say that I should dismiss this person as they obviously don’t know how to give constructive feedback. But what if he/she’s right, or that hidden amongst it are good gems I just can’t see past the snark factor?
Could it be my zipper’s been down this whole time and everyone else has been too polite to tell me?
The problem with the delivery of this person’s feedback is that it makes it very hard to look beyond it and see if any of it is valid. Or to understand that they just don’t like my voice and genre (which I’m fine with).
I love critiquecircle.com, but one of its drawbacks is that it’s mainly done chapter by chapter with inline comments. To continue with my metaphor, everyone’s helped me make sure the stitching is straight, my pockets look good, cuffs are the right length, etc. (Thank you guys!!!) It’s not ideal, though, for stepping back and evaluating the whole and noticing that my goddamn zipper’s been catching air this whole time. The whole forest for the trees thing… I think that’s why the recent critter worries me, because she might be seeing things everyone’s missed. The other problem is that I’m a new writer and haven’t yet learned how to evaluate this.
It could be a confidence thing. Heck, I’m sure it is. But I think it’s also because I ache to improve my writing and I really, really don’t want to be missing an opportunity to learn. But I haven’t developed the skill yet to tell if this person just doesn’t like my genre and style. Since I don’t know this critter, which would help in the evaluation department, I’ve reached out to a writer I trust to read my fourth draft (which I hope to have soon) and let me know if my zipper is down.
How about you? Have you had a rough/snarky critique that ran in complete contrast to all other critiques? Did you also have a hard time putting that one critique in perspective?
EDIT: Coincidence time! Just saw from another blogger I follow that the first Wednesday of every month is Insecure Writer’s Support Group Day blog hop. So, I just entered my name into the ranks and making this my first post. Visit some others today and help boost morale.
- Smash That Mirror! Why Self-Referencing Critiquers Could Be Dangerous (angelaquarles.com)
- Everybody’s A Critic (kenradaniels.com)
- Dealing with Critiques – the 30-40-30 Rule (angelaquarles.com)