Getting critique is probably one of the scariest aspects of being a writer. It scares me even more than pitching or querying. Putting a piece of work you've been slaving over for weeks, months, or even years to have people give you constructive criticism is terrifying. I've been critiqued by over forty people now and my heart rate still goes up and sometimes I get a bit sweaty and I flinch at some of the mistakes.
|Yes, it is.|
But critique is a necessary evil.
That said I've read a lot of posts on how to give critique, but I haven't seen so many about how to handle it. Not only have I been critiqued by a lot of people, I've critiqued and edited about the same amount if not more--and I've had a lot of good and bad experiences with it. If you want to grow in your writing, critique is paramount, but how you handle critique can make or break your critiquing experience both for you and the person critiquing you.
1.) Remember You Asked For It - First things first, you asked this person to look over however much of your work and give their honest opinion of it. If you say to critique anything they see, most of them are going to do it. If you're more tender-skinned, try asking for specific critique then the critiquer will focus on that instead of everything. For example: just the grammar, just the characters, just the plot, etc.
|And we must have Jack Sparrow gif.|
2.) Most Critiquers' Sole Purpose in Life isn't to Watch Your Book Burn - Though I've had experience with really jerkish critiquers, most I've met are pretty nice chaps. They genuinely want to help you. Just them saying yes to critique you shows that. Good critiquers will give both positives and negatives to sandwich the critique, so don't automatically take their critique as a personal attack on you. Don't immediately reply to the critiquer with an all caps email about how the critiquer is a moron and you are so right. What is the point of critique if you do that? Plus it's rude. And yes, I have had people do this to me. It's why I'm really ... really picky with whom I critique.
|They don't want to do this to you.|
3.) Sometimes They Really Are Jerkwads - On the other hand there are some people that are really bad at critiquing. They slam you with a bunch of negatives and they don't really give a crap about how much time you put into the book. Don't assume every critiquer is going to be this though. Assume they're going to be a nice person and if they turn out to be a jerkwad then so be it.
|I have not seen this show, but this gif is hilarious.|
4.) You Don't Have to Take the Advice, But Mull it Over Before Making a Decision - Give yourself a few days or even a week or so to really think about the critiquer's advice whether it be good or bad. Read it over a few times. Really mull it over. You don't have to take the advice, it's your story, but sometimes you may have to make a hard decision because they pointed out something big. Maybe you need to cry over it a bit or eat some mochi ice cream or drink some Bubble Tea before you feel ready to take on the new challenge.
|... And more about me who's still mulling it over.|
(Every time I think of the word "mulling" I think
of this line. XD )
5.) Before Replying ... - Wait. Always wait a few days. If you are a hot mess about some critique don't send a rage email, let yourself simmer down and think about it logically. If you feel the fire burning need to defend then do it p-o-l-i-t-e-l-y. If it is a point of confusion like say the person pictured something wrong or didn't understand the scene explain it, but keep in mind if they got confused that may mean you didn't do a good job with the scene and you need to rewrite it.
|Don't take after 11's example. XD|
6.) ALWAYS. SAY. THANK YOU. - I can't even tell you how many times I've spent several hours of my life critiquing someone's work, looking up resources for them, plus composing a detailed email with my critique then I send it ... and I don't get so much as a thank you or even a reply. And I've thought to myself, "Well I'm never critiquing you again. Black-balling you." It doesn't matter what the critiquer said to you, thank them for their time. They didn't have to help you, but they did. That's a kindness.
Critique is tough. There's no getting around it, but if you want to be a better writer you have to do it. Fact of life. The bottom line is be courteous to your critique buddies, choose them wisely, and be specific in your critique. It can make or break your experience.
Have you gotten critique? Have you given critique and gotten some responses like I have? What was your best critique experience? What was your worst? Do you have have any questions about critique? Happy Fourth by the way for all y'all fellow 'Mericans! Celebrate it Captain America Style.
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12 Things I've Learned as a Writer I Wish Someone Told Me Sooner
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Twelve Rookie Writer Mistakes and How to Mend Them
The Book of Encouragement
Basing the Protagonist on Yourself: The Pros and Cons