Success only flourishes in perseverance -- ceaseless, restless perseverance.
--Baron Manfred Von Richtofen

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

How to Give and Receive Critiques Well

This was the second panel I did at CONduit. A very important topic for writers. I have been giving and receiving critiques for seventeen years now, so I think I know a little bit about it. For the sake of shorter posts (we all like shorter posts, right?) I am going to divide this topic into two different posts. Today's will focus on receiving critiques.

You need feedback. No matter how long you've been writing. No matter how good you are. You need to be critiqued. It's not always fun, but it is necessary.

Rule #1 when receiving a critique: Don't take it personally.  It's not you being critiqued. It's not your story. Your story exists in your head and it is perfect. What is being critiqued are the words you have used to convey your perfect story into the head of the reader. (Remember the "This is my manuscript. This is me." routine? Use it again here.)

Rule #2: Everyone's opinion is valid. If someone is expressing their opinion, it's their opinion. You don't have to agree, but don't argue with it. Make sure you thank those who have taken the time to read and give feedback on your work.

Rule #3: You only have to take the advice you want to take. The story is yours. Listen to all the feedback, comments and suggestions. Let them sit a few days. Then, make the changes that you feel excited to make. If you don't think a suggestion will make your story better, ignore it. This is so important. Get feedback, take suggestions, but never never forget that this is your story and no one else's. You have to stay true to it.

Do you have any advice on receiving critiques? I'd love to hear it.

14 comments:

Stephanie McGee said...

I like to think I'm getting better at 1 and 2 as time goes on. 3 is what I always do with feedback, let it sit and only address what I can remember from the crit after a few days (at least for the first pass of revisions after a crit).

Lindsey Duncan said...

Hee! I loved the marked-up page there.

I would say don't be afraid to dialogue with a critiquer. Not to argue - but to ask clarifying questions and, "Would this work better for you?"

Unfortunately, while I'm okay with not taking critiques personally, that doesn't stop the fact that (even after years of doing it) getting a critique still makes me feel ill, and I absolutely cannot do anything else (like, say, sleep) until I've finished addressing a critique in hand. *cough*

So please don't send me critiques at midnight, 'cause then I'll have to blame you for sleeping through my alarm. ;-)

Christine Rains said...

This is helpful since I'm going to my first writer's group meeting this Saturday and I'm having a story critiqued. It makes me nervous, but I know I will learn a lot as long as I can manage not to take anything personally.

Terry W. Ervin II said...

I think accepting a crit gets easier the longer you're at it.

One thing I find interesting is writers who out of hand discount a critter's opinion. I often ask, "If you weren't prepared to consider what the individual had to say. If he's a person whose opinion you don't value, why did you ask him to read and offer input?" Answers are varied, but more often than not the writer just wanted somebody, anybody to read his work and expected glowing reviews.

Looking forward to the second half of your topic.

Jewel Allen said...

Great tips, Angie! One thing I have learned as a critique-giver is to not try to rewrite someone else's manuscript to reflect MY style of writing. After all, it's their story!

Stacy Henrie said...

Great list! My crit group has worked on sharing what we like as well as the suggestions we have for changing things. I think it makes a critique easier to stomach when someone points out you what things you nailed.

Danyelle said...

Awesome post, Angie! :D Something I'm learning is to consider when mulling over the advice is where the critiquer is coming from and what their reading life experience has been. It helps to know if, say, they don't read the genre I write in very often.

For me, adjusting my attitude is the first step. Coming at the critique with an attitude of "I can fix this, and this critique will show me some ways to do that" instead of "Ack! My story's not perfect. >.<"

Maeve Frazier said...

Great post, as always Angie! I always come away from your blog having learned something. Thank you.

Angie said...

Thanks for the awesome comments, everyone! Those are all important things to think about with critiquing. I think it is always hard, no matter how many times you've been critiqued. So good for us, though!

AstonWest said...

Great list...and wholeheartedly agree. The trick, of course, is that #3 is very much dependent on the amount of time a person has been writing. When we get a little time under our belts, it's easier to determine whether advice is something you want to take, whether that advice is reasonable or not. As a new writer, you often think your words are golden and you aren't often excited to make changes to your masterpiece...

But then, that's just my opinion (#2)... ;-)

Bernard S. Jansen said...

I love the marked-up page. That Jane has a lot to learn. I think it was a bold move doing that, because it reinforces your Rule #2. Even "great literature" isn't sacred; so why should our own scribblings be exempt from the opinions of the well-meaning?

WindyA said...

What great reminders that we all need sometimes. I know it's so hard as a writer NOT to take things personally, because, well, we put so much of our hearts and souls into everything we do, anyone coming at us to say that there's something just not right about it feels like they are attacking us. *sigh* You have to look past that to know they are just trying to make you stronger and your story better.

Angie said...

That's true, Todd. We do have to get over ourselves so to speak as writers. I have found the opposite to be true too. Some new writers feel they have to make every change suggested to them. It's a balance.

Bernard, I know. I thought that pic was so funny.

Aubrie said...

The "don't take it personally" is hard for me sometimes! But after I get over it, I always learn so much.

Great post! And thanks for stopping by my blog!