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Author: Subject: Criticism is great!
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[*] posted on 8/31/2015 at 09:31 AM
Criticism is great!

I've always been one of those highly neurotic people who fear showing a WIP to anyone lest I get fatally punctured by withering criticism. If a reader doesn't like what I've written, that must mean they hate my disgusting, inadequate inner child, right? Ugh!

So now I'm about half way done with the first draft of my first novel and it didn't seem quite right, but I didn't know how to fix whats gone off the tracks. I can see parts of the dialogue that are clunky, but couldn't decide what to do differently.

About three months ago a dear friend visited me from out of state. She had some experience working for a genre publisher years ago and I steeled myself enough to ask her to read the first two chapters. She loved certain things, said my voice was great, but thought not enough was happening plot wise early on. Her remarks were dispassionate and straightforward, and sounded quite reasonable. I survived! I actually agreed and didn't even feel crushed, imagine that! I was flabbergasted that I didn't crawl back into my shell and whine.

Then I let another friend read the same part. She said she thought it was autobiographical. Duh. That was about the extent of her assessment. Not of much use, but I shrugged it off.

Finally, the big test. My son has a friend who is a professional editor and she teaches writing to children. She generously read the two chapters, refused to charge me, and wrote a long, long opinion with many specific suggestions. I agreed with seven out of eight of them and intend to implement them, the other I still want to do my way, but I didn't feel hurt or resentful. What a treasure she is; I'm going to pay her to do the proofreading and editing if I ever get this thing done.

Those of you with normal personalities, if there are any such people on a writer's site, will think I'm weird for making such a big deal out of this, but it was a huge step for me. My message is, don't be afraid of honest criticism, it doesn't have to crush your soul. Be careful to choose sensible readers without hidden agendas, of course, but opening up your WIP to a little scrutiny can really get you over that big swamp of confusion before you sink too deep. I didn't think I could do it, but I did.

When life hands you a rotten tomato, save it, cause someone you'd like to throw it at will come along soon.
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[*] posted on 8/31/2015 at 11:36 AM

Before I get into my little rant about this topic, I congratulate you on taking that step and opening yourself up for criticism.

I think there's too much cheer leading and ass-kissing going on in indie communities, that we're not learning anything anymore. I understand that indie authors try to be supportive and that's nice but there's a blurred line there. If writers, publishers, designers, marketers..etc. (some qualified more than others) don't criticize each other honestly, then we're all contributing to lower standards. You can't always say something because of political correctness, and in such cases it's just best not to say anything at all, rather than clap and cheer them on.

I've been in huge, famous groups where if you criticize something from a professional stand point, they accuse you of being hostile or jealous or something dumb and petty like that. Special snowflake syndrome is rampant and that, imho, is not the right path for serious writers. That's why I created an uncensored group on Facebook. I'd much rather be told to my face where I'm going wrong so I can work on it and better myself the next time. I acknowledge that there are plenty of more seasoned writers who know better. I want to learn from them.

Criticism is good, no matter how painful it is. You're on the right path. Good luck with your writing.
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[*] posted on 8/31/2015 at 11:58 AM

I agree with both of you!

I never liked hearing "Gee, that's great!" because there was no fertilizer in it. Nothing to help me grow and get better. (Well, to be honest, I liked hearing that a lot, emotionally speaking, but it's not helpful exactly.)

Writers should be able to write well enough that their critiques are honest, helpful and supportive all at the same time.

"Go forth boldly in the direction of your dreams." Thoreau
M. Lori Motley - Fantasy & Horror
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[*] posted on 9/12/2015 at 12:17 PM

I strive to give both constructive criticism and compliment when I critique. I think it is as important for a writer to know what they are doing RIGHT as it is to know what they are doing wrong. I don't think one can just automatically 'assume' that just because someone doesn't mention it means it's okay. I like to be told where I did good, where something might have really stood out. I think we learn just as much from that too. So when I critique, I try to always cushion the blow by starting with something good, then talking about room for improvement, and then sum up the thoughts on the piece as a whole, and then end with a compliment of something done well. I like to always leave someone with hope and with what they did well, so it not only lessens the sting of the parts that could be better, but also so they are left with hope that they've done something good here.

I am always honest when I critique, but I do think there's a difference between honesty and brutal honesty, and that you do not have to tear someone or their work down in order to tell them where it can be improved, and if you can't find anything at all nice to say about someone's work, if there's not a single good thing you can find to compliment it, then you are probably the wrong person to critique that piece of work and should just move on and keep silent.

Yes, writers have to have a thick skin. But it takes time for that to build. Just like learning to play a guitar, it takes a while for your fingers to build up callouses, and until they do, it's gonna hurt a little bit. I don't ever want to be the causative of someone choosing to give up writing just because I could have taken the time to be a little more supportive in my honesty.

And I'm not saying this about anyone posting here--it's more an in general type of post toward things I've seen online. Ridicule, taunting, teasing, laughing at others, making fun--these things DO NOT help others achieve their goals or excel in any way, especially when done behind ones back or when the other person hasn't asked for critique or doesn't know you're critiquing their work. You can't say it was done in their best interests when they weren't even aware of it...

So I agree 100% with Melanie's last line: "Writers should be able to write well enough that their critiques are honest, helpful and supportive al at the same time."

Love and stuff,
~~Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combinations~~

Do just once what others say you can't do, and you will never pay attention to their limitations again." James R. Cook


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