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The Value of Critique

There are times as an author when you need to seek the opinion of other authors and readers. You might not even find all of those opinions valid, but you just might find gems in their opinions. Gems that can do nothing but make your work stronger.

There is one issue with critique though, and for many writers it’s a big one. Ready? You have to let your work go BEFORE it is ready, so others can help you get it ready. I’d repeat that, if I was teaching a class. But it’s written, so just read the sentence above one more time.

Letting go is uncomfortable. Let’s face it, some authors even struggle with letting go after their work has been edited, and is supposedly ready. But without feedback from readers before the work is released, the author really only has the opinion of one or two people. People who may be close to, and even vested in, the words on the page.

The reader, or critique group has no such investment or love for your turn of phrase. Likely they will see plot holes and places where disbelief has not been suspended adequately, and places where you, as the author, just stepped over the line a bit too far. It’s hard not to take at least a part of it personally, because it is, after all, your work. But discomfort leads to growth, and that has great value.

Not everyone is right. Look around the room. Wait. If you are an author and reading this at home, wait until you next visit a coffee shop or restaurant. Then look around. Likely, if it is still summer (you should try this outside stuff. The smells are amazing), there will be people with iced drinks topped with whipped cream sitting next to folks with hot coffee decorated with colorful straws. Some will have two straws of different color, some will have one. Cream, no cream, a different bean here or there… You get the idea. Now look at the menu.

Everyone likes different things. Your story and style will not appeal to everyone, so stop trying. Some people will misread what you are trying to write, while others will “get” it. Take the advice offered, and apply it to what you are trying to do. If you take every piece of advice, likely you don’t have enough confidence in your own ability.

Critique hurts, and isn’t always constructive. Writing is pain. Get used to it. Often our stories flow from a place of pain, and are very personal. Sometimes others who offer to critique your work are jealous for some reason, and lash out as a result of their own pain. Don’t judge them, or strike back. It’s pretty likely you do the same thing from time to time.

As much as writing is pain, it is also fraught with risk. Even when your work is as “done” as you can get it, well edited and proofed, putting out into the world is risky. There are those who will not like your work, and will tear it apart. Let them. Draw strength from it, and move on.

To make yourself the best you can be, you need to be able to take and apply criticism of all forms, constructive and otherwise. It’s frightening. It’s painful. It’s risky. But it’s worth it.

Published inAdvice for AuthorsOpinion

One Comment

  1. abuzzinid abuzzinid

    Great point about letting go before it’s “ready.” I hadn’t though of it that way. Of course, for me that point may come and go dozens of times before the revisions are done.

    The first time I let my baby out for critique was at a workshop. Five industry folk looked at it, synopsis and all, and the feedback ranged from encouraging to breathtakingly negative. The brain-storming to fix it from a Hollywood guy encouraged and from a New York agent made me want to drown it in the river. I don’t advise that scenario for early writers, but I learned I could live after being nuked.

    Besides that experience (which was worth it in the long, long run), critiques since have only driven my visions further. Even the ones that hurt.

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