So today we're going to talk about how to find that balance of what's good and what's not when you're critiquing. A while ago I was at my writer's group and one of the members handed how a very helpful sheet on how to leave good comments. Here's some tips that I hope you will find helpful:
- Be Honest: Don't lie to the author if something is wrong. If you tell them that everything is okay then that problem will never be fixed. You can be gentle but always remember to tell them the truth. That way they will fix their mistakes. Editors will not have the time to tell you what they think but critiqu partners can.
- Be thick-skinned: No this doesn't mean to add an extra layer of skin on, this just means that if someone gives a critique that is negative to your work it doesn't mean you're a bad writer. As we know, every story we write is like our baby and death to they who don't agree that it is fantastic. But in order to survive in the publishing world we have to grow a spine and seperate ourselves from the work. Editors and publishers will want you to change things and you will probably gather many rejections. So we just have to get used to it.
- Consider Comments Carefully: Sometimes people will makes comments when they are commenting on your work, and some of those comments may not always apply to your story. Sometimes it's just a personal preference. And remember, you are the writer, it's up to you to decide what stays and what goes. You can't please everyone. That being said, don't disregard comments that may hurt your feelings. Sometimes those comments will have little bits of wisdom in them and the commenter may just be just trying to help. If it helps, step back, take a breather and look to the comment later when you aren't so upset.
- Be Kind: As I've said before, every writer views their story as if it's their baby. Remember the golden rule: treat others as if you would want them to treat you. Being honest doesn't mean you have to be mean. Write your comments carefully as you would want someone commenting on your work.
- Be Encouraging: One of the biggest perks to have a friend who writes or just knowing someone else who does (or maybe you have a friend who doesn't write at all but really loves reading your work anyways. Maybe you are that friend too) is that they understand what it's like to be a writer. All the hard work we have to do to not only get published but to write a story as well. Encourage each other to write as best they can. Help those who are facing writer's block or rejection.
- Be Friendly: Get to know other writers and become friends. Writing a story in today's world is a difficult experience and it's best if you have those who understand. The more you know about each other the better things will be. Remember that even if someone is your competition they can still be your friend and it may even help you in the future.
- Be Prompt: When you ask someone to look at something of yours, you'll probably be anxious to hear what they think. If someone asks you to look at something of theirs do your best to get back to them as soon as you can.
- Look at the bigger picture: The first thing you probably want to do as soon as you look at someone's work is it go over every little mistake in their grammar or whatever. While this is helpful in the first draft you must remember to not center on one thing but look at everything else too. Characterization, plot, dialogue, etc will all need to be looked at. So when the time comes for them to send their manuscript in to a publisher, they'll know it's good to go.
So, have you ever critiqued someone's work besides yours? Was it a friend or someone you didn't know? Did you think you were helpful?