Sunday, 23 January 2011

The Different Sides of Critiquing

I wanted to hold off on this post until I’d read Jessica’s critiques on my first chapter for Resisting Wonderland, and it completely changed what I was going to write about. So sorry if this is a little underprepared.

I’m facing a dilemma in that two of my critters had completely alternate reactions to my first chapter. I’m incredibly grateful that both took the time to pour over my MS and give me feedback on what I needed to do. So again, Jessica, many thanks for the time you’ve put into writing your critiques.

My writing partner loved it. She loved the imagery, related to Alice’s character, and felt completely immersed in the world I was beginning to create. There were quite a few things she pointed out and advised for me to alter or change, but other than this, her reaction to it was positive.

Then I read Jessica’s critiques. She tore it completely apart. I’m thankful she did, as she made me question a lot about the structure of the first chapter. It has to be effective and strong, but at the moment, it isn’t. In my first draft, the beginning was something else entirely. Slowly, it’s coming around to something I want it to be. But as Jessica pointed out, there’s still an incredible amount of work to be done.

The dilemma I’m facing is how to incorporate both critters' advice while still trying to achieve what I myself want from the chapter. At this stage, it’s looking like a complete rewrite. I’m not tackling that just yet. Two other people have my MS, and I’m pending their feedback. I would love to hear alternate opinions before I do any more extensive work so I can take everything into account.

My experience with the contrasting critiques has taught me a few things. For one, it’s made me amazingly grateful that there is a multitude of people who are willing to help out with feedback and critique. One person is never enough and individual opinions can differ.

Another thing the experience has taught me is I handle criticism surprisingly well. A few years ago, I would have been horrified at my work being torn to pieces. Now I’m just glad there is somebody who cares about my work enough to tear it to pieces, and help me achieve what they already know I can. Critter faith is an invaluable thing, even if my current MS isn't in a fantastic state.

In the last few years, I’ve always told myself to take criticism as a compliment. Somebody cares enough to pay attention to what I’m doing wrong. Even if it is hard for you to deal with criticism, try to look at it in a positive light. An experience means nothing if you don’t take something from it.

Have you ever had to tackle criticism in writing, and if you have, how did you deal with it?


  1. I'm sorry I ripped it apart! Definitely wasn't my intention, but I definitely want you to have the best MS you could possibly have. I'm willing to reread anything :) so don't hesitate to ask.

    As for criticism, I'm usually pretty good with it. Sometimes I catch myself trying to justify my own use of something that a CP said I should stop. Then I just ask my other CPs what they think of it to clear my head. But in the long run, I usually strive to incorporate everyone's opinion into a new draft, just because there's some merit in everyone's opinion. If they really read it that way, who's to say someone else won't?

    The only time I DIDN'T take criticism well was when I felt the person giving it to me was actually using it as a way to belittle and attack me. Now, I make sure I know who my CPs are before I get any critique. Trust is important :) and if I trust someone, I'm going to take their criticism for what it is and get to work on fixing it!

  2. It is hard to know that what you have isn't as polished as you thought. And it's especially hard when someone has torn your entire scene/chapter apart. But it's also good because you know that something isn't coming across right or you could speed up the scene... anything.

    I've had a hard time taking criticism in the past, but I'm slowly overcoming my urge to ball my eyes out because it feels like they absolutely hate it and "why am I even writing". I used to get angry if there were a lot of comments and I'd just be like "FINE, I'll just REDO IT."

    Over that now though. Only have one critique partner while I'm still writing all the scenes and I take her input like it's a life-line. It's important to me to take in what she has to say and put it in my MS.

    Also, you might be waiting awhile for my critique... >_>

  3. Yeah, especially when you ask for crits. It was hard at first to learn - however sweet the CP was! - that it wasn't as good as I'd thought it was. But in the long run the ms will be the better for it so . . .

  4. Getting conflicting critique advice is common, but terribly unnerving. You might find that the feedback from your two remaining "critters" solves the problem.

    If not, I go with the comments from each critter that feel right to me. At some point, it comes down to your own gut.

    Good luck!

  5. It's always hard when you get conflicting opinions, but you almost always do. Each CP approaches the ms from the perspective of what is important to her (or him). If multiple critiques point to the same passage, or offer the same opinion, I figure it must be a problem and I need to take a serious look at it. Other more individual opinions, as Lynette has said, you can look at with your own intentions in mind and decide what feels best to you.

    It's also important, when asking for a critique, to be clear about our expectations of it. Do I want the structure examined, the setting or character development critiqued, or do I really only want editing assistance to catch glaring grammatical errors? If I've discussed my requirements it makes it much easier to deal with the response because I'm better prepared for the kind of suggestions that will be forthcoming.

    I hope the remaining critiques will help clarify any ms weaknesses and you'll feel confident about working on the revision.