Critiquing Etiquette


Before the advent of individual GPS devices, if you were on a road trip and got lost, you had to ask for directions.  Of course, if your GPS device is cheap or hasn’t been updated you still have to ask.  Not asking meant driving around in circles for a time while your blood pressure continued to spike and your travel companions continued to yell.

Asking for direction for some can be a hard pill to swallow.  We tend to allow our fear and pride to get in the way.  Once we receive the directions, we then end up having a hard time trusting that what was given will be helpful (you ask for directions to a theme park and end up in the swamp.)

The same is true with asking someone to review or critique your work.  We see our writing as individual babies that come from our minds almost as Athena did from Zeus (just not fully formed.)  We think that our prose are witty, we understand the direction (or think we do) that the story is going in and know that there’s a reason for writing it the way we have.  So when we receive feedback, it’s oftentimes very difficult to take what was given.

If we don’t ask for direction, though, we chance getting lost.  Same with our writing.  I don’t know about you, but I think it may actually be a waste of time to sit down and write a story, try to submit it and receive a boat-load of rejections because the piece is horribly written.  I’d rather know up front what needs to be changed, removed, or clarified so that when I do receive those dreaded rejections it won’t be because I was lost.

As I stated earlier this week, (click here), it behooves us to ask for direction.  Not doing so is tantamount to getting hit by a train.  However, when we allow our work to be critiqued, there are a few things we should keep in mind.

  1. Don’t take it personally.  No one is critiquing you to keep you from becoming a better writer.  Just the opposite.  The advice is given to help you.
  2. Be open-minded.  You may know the direction that the story is taking you, and it is your baby, however, someone looking from the outside can see the blemishes that we can’t see up close.  What we tend to think of as really great in our writing can actually be so weird or unclear that it causes issues for the reader.
  3. All writers are not created equal so find the balance.  I am a Science Fiction writer, so if a Romance writer critiques my piece, they will probably have a different set of expectations than I would.  They might want me to put more emphasis on the feelings and emotions when that’s not necessary to the overall voice of the story.  So, while attempting impartiality, I have to be able to ascertain what is and is not necessary for the revision process.
  4. Always thank the reviewer.  It’s just rude not to.
  5. Offer to return the favor.  When someone takes time out of their own writing to help you with yours, it’s only good form to return the courtesy.  But make sure that you do it to be helpful, not vengeful for what they wrote about your work.

If you’ve never asked someone to critique your work before, why not try it now?   Let me know how it worked out for you. Take baby steps and see how much more improved your story will be.

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