Sunday, July 20, 2014

Gracious Acceptance - 8 Ways to Deal with Critiques.

Last month we saw 10 ways to improve the way we critique. Let's now take a look at the different ways we may respond.

Say you have submitted an article to your critique group, and you've received several responses. How do you react?

Here are eight possible scenarios:

1. "I love it when Jane critiques my work. She enjoys my writing so much she rarely corrects anything."

Jane is not critiquing your work. She's patting you on the back. This is of no value to you as a writer.

Don't you need encouragement? Certainly, but not to this degree, especially from a critique partner. Surely there should be some encouragement in the crit as well? Yes, there should. And hopefully she has given you some along the way. But telling you you're good will not improve your writing.

2. "I dread opening Jim's critiques. They usually resemble a blood bath."

Hmm. It could be that Jim is over heavy with his corrections. It could also be that he's the best critic you have. Don't be put off by the amount of corrections. Look for a bit of encouragement, but definitely look to see if his comments are justifiable. In which case, give thank for his dilligence, and tell him you appreciate his help.

3. "I find Mary's critiques difficult as I don't feel happy with the changes she insists I make."

You don't need to feel happy. You need to see if it improves your writing. If you don't like the changes she suggests, don't follow them. She is not telling you that you must make them. It's not Mary's article, it's yours. Ultimately the acceptance or rejection will be yours. Don't feel you have to follow every suggestion in your critiques. Absolutely not!

4. "I get indignant with Geoff's critiques. I often end up challenging him which leads to a healthy debate."

No, no, no! You should never enter into a debate when someone critiques you work. If you don't understand a comment, by all means ask for clarification so you can be sure what they mean. Then just say "Thank you for your time" and move on. If you agree, follow through. If you don't, disregard what doesn't resonate with you. But do not argue. He will never critique your work again--rightly so! Even trying to explain what you meant to say is not the correct approach. You're not going to be next to your final readers to explain. So if he hasn't got it the first time, perhaps you do need to follow his suggestions.

5. "I get confused when four people tell me to change the same thing, but in different ways."

Of course you do. Take a good look at the comments and decide which suggestions you prefer. Which are closer to what you want to say? When I work through a critique, I do it paragraph by paragraph. I belong to a big critique group and often have 5 or 6 crits of the same article. I look at the first section and check all the comments, then edit accordingly before moving on. Just this last week, I received two suggestions for the same paragraph. I liked them both. Which to take? I copied both sets of comments to my working copy and continued with the article. By the time I reached the end, it was clear which of the two suggestions would work best for me.

6. "It doesn't seem like my article any more, now that I've worked on all the critiques."

This can happen. You've lost your voice. This you definitely don't want to do. Go back to the original and take a fresh look at it. (Never save over your first draft.) Check your critiques again and if necessary start over using less of the suggestions than before. Won't this take a lot of time? Yes. But do you want to be published or don't you?

7. "I often read critique points and choose to ignore the suggestions because I don't agree."

That's your prerogative. Take a good look at what they're saying though, before you decide to ignore them. But let me say it again—it is your article. You know what you want to say. You'll find this especially relevant if you've written in British English for an American market. American spelling, punctuation, grammar, and even words are often different. If only one says, "We would say XXX" and the others don't comment, you're probably safe to leave it alone. But if they all say, "Your comma should go here . . ." listen to them! Don't take the attitude of "I'm writing in British English." If you're writing for an American market, you shouldn't be! Learn from the Americans in your group.

You will always find suggestions you don't like, and that's fine. Analyse what they're saying. Be sure you understand their suggestions. Make sure your work says what you want it to. Then feel free to ignore them and move on. But above all . . .

8. "I accept the critiques with grace and appreciation, even though I may not use all the suggestions." 

The person has taken time off that he or she could have used for their own writing, to help you. Do not argue with them. Do not point out they are wrong. Just accept their suggestions gracefully, and move on. If you don't understand what they mean, by all means ask for a clarification. But appreciate their suggestions, and use what is helpful. Then move on.

Over to you. Any comments, or additional questions you may have in connection with the above? Do you have any examples of times you've reacted in any of the ways mentioned?

Further Reading:
How to Tread Lightly - 10 tips on doing a critique by Shirley Corder.
Critiques are Essential by Karen Cioffi-Ventrice
Finding the Right Critique Group by Linda Moore Kurth



SHIRLEY CORDER lives on the coast in South Africa with her husband, Rob. Her book, Strength Renewed: Meditations for your Journey through Breast Cancer contains 90 meditations based on her sojourn in the cancer valley.

Please visit Shirley's Write to inspire and encourage website or at  RiseAndSoar.com, where she writes to inspire and encourage those in the cancer valley. You can also meet with her on Twitter or FaceBook

13 comments:

  1. Shirley, great advice on handling critiques. As writers we have to keep an open ear and eye on what is helpful and what we should put on the side. I love that you mention the person giving the critique is giving of her time and skills. Whether it's on the mark or not, it's still effort they're putting forth on your content.

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    1. Hi Karen, Sorry I've been slow in responding as I was away from my internet connection and I've also been ill. Yes, you're right. And even if we don't agree with what they have to say, sometimes it gets us stop and think and even reword something to make it clearer.

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    2. What a lovely way to give writers a dose of what they need--critique reality! (-: I'll do some networking for it!
      Hugs ,
      Carolyn Howard-Johnson
      Multi Award-Winning Author of the HowToDoItFrugally series for writers including the second editions of the Frugal Book Promoter (http://bit.ly/FrugalBookPromo and The Frugal Editor (http://bit.ly/FrugalEditorKind )The latter is e-book only.for the time being.

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  2. Truly, this is the best article I've read on critiques. I never really knew how I should respond and was mostly afraid of point #6. I like how you make the reader appreciate the one who is critiquing and at the same time, the writer has the final say.

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    1. Thanks for your encouraging feedback, Kathleen. I think it's important that we appreciate and consider the suggestions, but we don't HAVE to follow everything. It needs to be our article, and the voice must remain ours. But those critiques are so important!

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  3. Shirley, this is great advice on how to handle critiques. I think it is important to be open to critiques. Take what resonates and if it doesn't make sense, let it go. I think it is also important to decide if the person giving the critique is a good match for you and your work.

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    1. Yes, Mary Jo. I've had the occasional person in a group that was clearly not attune with what I wanted to achieve. But I have to admit, even then, I usually find one or two things that I stop and think over and perhaps make a bit of a change before moving on. Thanks for your comments.

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  4. Shirley, I hope you're feeling better!

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    1. Thanks Karen. It's just going to have to run its course now. We had to push ourselves because we were away from home and I had to return for a big talk. Now we can let ourselves recover at a sedate pace. :-) Praise the Lord for laptops that work well in bed!

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  5. Dear Shirley,
    I like #6...it's definitely good to save your voice...
    Celebrate you
    Never Give Up
    Joan

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    1. Thanks for our response Joan. Yes, you're right. And it's so easy to lose our voice when we're trying to keep everyone happy!

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  6. Judith Robl said: Brava! Shirley, these are so right on. Critique groups can be a real struggle. One has to be fairly confident of one's writing, but open to suggestions for improvement. Then one has to have the discernment to know which ones to implement and which to put on the back burner.

    I'd also add that one needs to take a deep breath - or even an overnight or so - before implementing critique suggestions. It gives you a little perspective and sometimes takes the sting out of a criticism that is exactly what you need, but painful.

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    1. Thanks Judith, and I totally agree with the need for space. I never react immediately to a critique. In fact with my current big group, I only glance at the comments in passing until the end of the month. Once I know I have them all in, I then sit down with them and work on them all at once. Thanks Judith!

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