CRITIQUES Part 2: What do to when you receive a critique

In general, I usually try to be in a quiet place with no distractions. Read through it during your normal writing time if at all
possible. I don’t suggest reading through critiques or contest results just before combing your kid’s hair. Just saying. Have a glass of wine or hot chamomile tea to calm you.

When reading any feedback, remember – you sent your story idea out to the world for feedback. You DID NOT send out your first-born child for criticism. It can sometimes be hard for people to send out their work and not feel attacked as a person rather than seeing the comments for what they are: that person’s opinion.

Contest Feedback: The first thing I would do is find out a little bit about the judge. Most contest score sheets have information about the judge on the front, such as if they are published, PRO, or unpubbed. All three types of judges will grade things differently, you will have to put your own weight on the value of each category’s critique.

If it’s an unpubbed/PRO judge, I have found that they leave really great notes and questions for me to think about. Published authors usually leave a goldmine worth of comments if not more than one “Ah-ha” moments.

Tips to remember: 

  • Don’t take the comments personally, you paid for these critiques
  • Don’t get angry or defensive, the remarks that they make are that writer’s opinion
  • Write a thank you note to the judges
  • Whether you agree or disagree with the comments, don’t start revising right away. Take a few days to think about the
    comments.

Writing Buddy Critiques: In this case, they are typically your friends, if not close acquaintances versus the complete strangers from a contest. They want to see you succeed and thus their comments will be supportive and constructive. It’s nice that you don’t need any mental preparation when reading through these critiques. If you have writing buddies that are published, those are the ones to really pay attention to and hope that you can glean knowledge from their experience. Just remember that published authors work on deadlines, so you might not receive comments back from them as quickly as you would from others.

Keep in mind:

  • If there are sections of your manuscript where your writing buddies have all placed remarks –  then it would be a good idea to revise that section.
  • Know your buddies strengths – if one critiquer is better at punctuation vs pacing, keep that in mind when deciding what to revise
  • Same with all feedback, take a few days before revising, let the comments sink in and see which ones you really want to
    revise to.

Paid critique from a published author or an editor or agent – their comments are worth their weight in gold. These critiques will give you extremely valuable advice and criticism . . . that you may or may not want to hear.

The nice thing is that since you’ve paid for the critique as part of a chapter or charity fundraiser, they will make sure that you “get your money’s worth.” I would prep for reading through these critiques the same way you would for a contest, mentally calm, with an open mind, and possibly wine, chocolates, or both.

  •  More thoughts: 
    Write a thank you note to the critique – if it’s an agent or editor that liked your work, you are just giving them another reason to like you.
  • Change what you want – If you disagree with a critiquer’s comments, that’s perfectly fine. If they are suggesting a change that you don’t want to do, or think would change the story line or characters too much, then don’t do it. But think closely about what the comment says before completely ignoring it. Is it really about changing an entire character arc or is it something more basic like “this scene doesn’t fit here, cut or move it.”
  • Don’t change everything – This falls in line with the advice above. Say you receive 3 critiques and they all have marks in different areas and nothing is conclusive and more than anything, you end up feeling confused and disoriented. Instead of revising to all their comments, see if you can find another couple of people to send it to. See if their redlines fall in line with any of the ones you’ve received before and then you can find the relevant patterns.

Just a friendly reminder that critiques are supposed to help you on the road to publication. They are not meant to belittle you, chastise you, or get you to quit writing. If you EVER find that one of your critique partners makes you feel this way, well then, refrain from smacking them (I’ll do that for you) and just find a new partner. There are tons out there. Although writing is a solitary career, writing friends are in abundance.

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