Every writer knows the importance of getting feedback on your work—but it’s also a complicated matter. On the one hand, if a critique partner misunderstands or misconstrues, the resulting critique can be devastating. On the other hand, if a reader adores what you’ve written, it can be easy to lapse into complacency. Even a spot-on critique can completely upend your entire POV as a writer. If you’re routinely getting feedback on your writing (and we hope you are!), Writer’s Relief has the dos and don’ts you need to know:
DO: How To Make The Most Of Creative Writing Critique
Do take notes. Written notes will keep you from forgetting details later on. Plus, time can play games with your memory. If there’s any chance you might inadvertently “reinterpret” a critique later on, your written notes will remind you of the original expression.
Do listen with an open mind. It’s easy to build walls—okay, forty-foot-high ramparts—around ourselves to keep out the truth of a critique. But then you gain nothing from the feedback. Instead, truly listen to what others have to say. Welcome feedback for what it yields: an opportunity to grow.
Do stand up for yourself if you’re being disrespected. No critique should feel like standing before a firing squad. If you feel a critique has turned into a personal attack, don’t hesitate to step away or stop the proceedings. A writer’s process is sometimes a fragile thing, and you’re not wrong to protect your muse from abuse.
Do say thank you. No matter how completely off base your critique partners may be, thank them genuinely—one writer to another—for their honesty and their thoughtfulness. Hopefully, they’ll do the same when it’s your turn to offer a critique.
DON’T: What You Shouldn’t Do When Your Writing Is Critiqued
Don’t make knee-jerk edits. You shouldn’t make any changes to your writing until you’ve given the edits thoughtful consideration. Reflect on the advice you’ve been given before you incorporate any recommendations. And—of course—always save copies of your drafts.
Don’t argue. Resist the urge to tell your critique partners “you’re wrong” or “you’re not reading my work right.” A critique session is an opportunity for you to gather as much information as possible. What you do with that information when you get home and have time to process it privately is your business alone. Pushing back defensively against critique might compel your partners to withhold or censor any future (potentially helpful) feedback.
Don’t take it personally. No reader approaches a work of creative writing without a fair amount of personal baggage of his or her own—which means no two readers will view a work the same way. Whether a critique is grumpy or gushing, accept it with a grain of salt. And remember: You never really know what compels critique partners to make the observations that they do. Here’s our guide to interpreting critique.
And Most Of All, Remember This Key Strategy For Taking Critique Of Your Creative Writing
When you’re feeling doubtful, remember this: Your writing is yours. No one can tell you what to do with it. No one can tell you how to feel about it. No one can know your goals except for you. Stand tall with the knowledge that your writing—the struggles, the triumphs, the process—is your journey alone. Learn more about how to get over a bad critique of your creative writing.
Question: Share a story from a critique session that changed the way you feel about critique.
I enjoyed your article about critique. I was in a critique group for a couple years and left. There was one critter who would often tell me, Your story has potential, or your story fails to, or your story doesn’t … and so on. There were other critters who were more kind in the way they expressed comments truthful and otherwise.
I am now in a different online community and much more satisfied with the way critiques are expressed. On occasion, I run into the harsh, direct, belittling commentary, but not as regular compared to previous. I endeavor to critique others the way I want to be critiqued. Moreover, as a writer my maturity too is increasing with each sentence, paragraph, page, story and critique.
I have a wonderful critique partner in Dana Ramstedt, Kamloops, B.C. She is experienced, honest and above all, really cares about my characters as if they were real people. I have come to respect her red pen and miss it when we have to miss a week. Working on my first novel was an experience, and having to remove (to another file) my first ten chapters was the best thing I have even done.