Things I wish I knew about Critiquing when I started writing

Things I wish I knew about critiquing when I started writingCritiquing means different things to different people.

For me, it was always about finding the flaws so they could be fixed.

I’ve never made it a secret that I want to get my stories in front of as many people as possible, and I assume everyone else does to (unless they say different).

That influences my approach to critiquing, because to get your stories in front of people beyond your immediate reach, you have to give them a story they want to share.

It doesn’t matter how much advertising you do, how popular you are on social media, or even who you know, if you write a story that people don’t like, they aren’t going to share it.

Having a broad base of support is a great advantage, but word of mouth has always been, and will continue to be, a writers best friend.

In that sense, it’s kind of pointless to seek feedback if you’re not going to listen to what’s said.

It’s pretty rare that the solutions people offer will work for your story, but if several people have the same problem with it, then there’s almost certainly an issue you need to deal with.

That’s my advice, at least.

Here’s some more great advice from other writers:

“Being diplomatic and constructive is very important when critiquing, as its somebody’s ego you’re poking. Be true but kind.” Mark Mercieca

“It’s as much about asking the right questions as about the writing itself.” Robyn McIntyre

“Critiquing will take up a large amount of your ‘writing time’, but don’t worry to much about that because its worth every minute.” Mark Mercieca

“You learn as much from reading the critiques of others as you do your own.” Roland Boykin

“Early in the process, there’s a fine line between following your vision and incorporating another’s ideas. Don’t expose your baby on the mountain until she can survive the elements. Then incorporate those suggestions that make your story the best that it can be.” Janine Donoho

“I wish I’d demanded written critiques, not scribbles in the margins of my hardcopy. Week’s later when you go over these reviews they often don’t make sense or you can’t read the reviewers writing.” Mark Mercieca

“There is a big difference between giving criticism and being critical. Be honest, but be constructive. Telling someone their writing is rubbish doesn’t help them. Telling them why it doesn’t work for you and helping them improve it does.” Angeline Trevena

“Like editing, you need multiple reads for: plot / world building continuity, prose / rhythm, plot pacing.” Drew Briney

“Early on I felt that sometimes I couldn’t contribute or identify issues other critiquers picked up. Don’t worry. This definitely improves with practise.” Mark Mercieca

What’s your best critiquing advice?

Check out some of the other posts in the “Things I Wish I Knew About” series: Author PromotionPoint Of View, Dealing With Rejection, Editing Your Own Work, Short Stories, Creating Characters, Story Development, Worldbuilding and Writing.

8 thoughts on “Things I wish I knew about Critiquing when I started writing

  1. There’s a comment here I look at and cringe. I think critiquing about why it doesn’t work for “you” is a dangerous situation. This only works if a person has perspective. This type of critique almost always results in the writer’s style or voice and not about the story itself. If a person is confused by a section that’s one thing, if it doesn’t work for them is something else entirely.

    • I see what you mean Glendon. I tend to take the view that everything about both a critique and the story being critiqued is subjective, which in itself provides perspective. Give a story to ten people and they’ll each get something different out of it, and they’ll all find different ‘problems’ as well. In that sense, perspective isn’t optional. It’s essential. You can’t afford to go into a critique session without that perspective. What I see as a flaw someone else might see as the heart of the story.

  2. My best critiquing advice? Don’t let it drive you crazy! One person may like a particular part while another thinks it needs work. This is when you use your best judgement!

  3. Enjoyed the post, Chris. Valid points and useful links.
    I’d suggest when critiquing others, look at plot flaws and character weaknesses; is the POV consistent? Try to stay away from subjective opinions and find something you like so can offer praise as well as critique.
    When receiving critiques, give each point careful consideration but ultimately it’s your story and the final decision is yours.

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