Being part of a critique group can help indie authors improve the quality of their books prior to publication, at no cost to the author – except perhaps in pride and confidence. And you have much to gain from the process.
But it requires courage and focus not to take any negative comments personally. From Australia, Kelly Hart, author of Better Critiquing for Better Writing, provides sympathetic and constructive advice on how to turn a bad critique into a positive experience.
A Step in the Right Direction
I believe that giving and receiving critiques on writing is the first stepping stone a writer takes towards becoming an author. But critiquing another writer’s work is not as easy as it sounds. New writers are often hesitant to offer or receive critique because they’re afraid of doing it incorrectly, of hurting another writer’s feelings, or afraid other writers might pass harsh judgement on their writing.
A Two-Way Process
The thing is critiquing isn’t just about helping someone else improve their writing. It can give you a reader’s perspective on writing, which is invaluable. You’ll start to recognise if your writing has the same problems found in the work you’re critiquing. This will encourage you to look for issues in your writing, and you may discover new techniques to resolve those issues.
Better Now Than Post-Publication in the Public Eye
If your goal is to be a published author, your writing will end up in the public domain at some point, and you’ll need to be prepared for what people will say. Let’s face it: there are some people out there who say things that are better left unsaid. There are also book reviewers who stake their reputation on being brutally honest.
For this reason your writing needs to be at its best before you publish it. This can be fast-tracked with critiquing. Critiquing groups can be a supportive environment where you learn how to accept feedback and separate yourself from your writing, while you strengthen your manuscript.
Why Bad Critiques Happen
I’m not going to tell you bad critiques don’t happen because I have seen them occur; but usually there is a reason. Most often it comes down to a lack of knowledge about critiquing. That’s right, the writing isn’t the problem. It’s either the person being critiqued or the person giving the critique, or a combination of the two.
Sometimes the person whose writing is being critiqued is not ready for the experience, or the people they’re receiving a critique from will give them feedback beyond their writing experience.
Other times, the person doing the critique may not know how to give helpful feedback, or the critique they’re giving is too harsh. These problems can be avoided by making sure you find the right group or critiquing partner.
How to React to a Bad Critique
But, what if you get a bad critique?
When you get a bad critique, it’s best to put it aside for a few days and forget about it. Instead, use the critiques you feel more positive about to rewrite your work. Focus on the good that has come out of these other critiques – how they have improved your work.
After the few days is up, go back and reread the critique, but don’t focus on anything that is nasty or not useful. Comments like ‘I don’t like this section’ need to be water off a duck’s back if they haven’t given you a reason; instead use it as a place marker. The critiquer has found something that has made them pause, so take another look at that section to see if you can find anything. If they gave you a reason for the comment, decide if it has any merit. If it doesn’t, discard that comment and move on.
A Balancing Act
Once you reach the end of the critique, you need to weigh up whether or not it was worthwhile getting a critique from this person. In the end, were there more valid comments than invalid? Did getting a critique from this person harm your confidence as a writer, or has it made you more determined to do better?
You need to decide what’s best for you. If you decide that it wasn’t worth it, don’t put yourself through getting another critique from this person, find someone else to critique your writing.
OVER TO YOU Do you take part in critiques? We'd love to hear your experiences, good or bad – feel free to leave a comment.#Authors - how to turn a bad critique into a positive experience by @BetterScribe Click To Tweet