Showing posts with label How to critique writers. Show all posts
Showing posts with label How to critique writers. Show all posts

Critique Comments versus Author's Ideas

As writers we want and need critiques of our work. But what is a writer to do when the critique and suggestions totally changes what the author has in mind for a piece? What if  the author disagrees with the critique and refuses to revise the piece in any way? My experience is certainly more limited than that of a seasoned author but here is how I see the purpose of critiques and what an author should be able to take away from any opinion of their work.

A good critique will give positive suggestions on making a written piece stronger and more marketable. That doesn't mean that there won't be negative comments and comments that an author does not agree with. However, a good critique should show the author a view of the work looking through a wide lens and from a different angle, neither right or wrong...just different.

A good critique should never be all negative nor should it be all positive because in reality the work being critiqued is not ready to publish so not perfect. Comments stating " I like it" or "it doesn't work for me" are not specific enough to improve on so become meaningless to the author. A comment like " I think the character needs more emotion" or " the climax is weak, can you increase the tension here?" gives the author a starting point to improve the work.

An author should not feel obligated to change an entire manuscript based on the results of one or two critiques unless it will improve the work. The author should consider other points of view when deciding what needs to be revised with a conscious effort to leave the personal and emotional aspect out of the revisions. Developing a tough skin and the ability to cut, revise, and reshape a manuscript without hurt feelings comes with experience but is a must if one wants to be published.

Critiques offered by agents and publishers should be considered slightly more valuable because at this point the manuscript should be almost ready to publish. An author working closely with an agent or publisher benefits from making some suggested revisions for the purpose of pleasing the one who will make the effort lucrative. Even to that end, the author still holds the key to what changes will be made and what remains in alignment with the character, plot, and purpose of the work.

Authors need to find a solid group of critique partners, one or maybe two, that can be counted on to be honest, objective, and noncompetitive when helping to improve a story or article. Relatives, spouses, adult children, and neighbors may not be the best choices because of their lack of objectivity and their feelings of loyalty to the writer. It is better to have a critique partner that is also a writer and one who understands the pieces of a story, a story arc, and character development.... one who can spot a flaw with a manuscript and give suggestions for improvement. Those critiques will help an author grow and improve, and in the end isn't that what we authors strive to achieve?

The Gift of Feedback

Feedback, otherwise referred to as constructive criticism, can make the heart beat a bit faster. Each of us, in our lifetime, have been subjected to this feedback, yet society doesn't tell us either how to give or receive feedback well. Consequently, even when our intent is to help another, the feedback we give feels hurtful or mean. With writers, too often, this "constructive criticism" may stop a person from writing.

Some suggestions: When giving feedback:
1. Ask for permission first. "May I make a suggestion . . ." This gives the person the option of saying, "no."

2. Use "I" statements. "I have found . . ."

3. Remember that even though you may appreciate and accept feedback well, others may be more sensitive to criticism. Keep that in mind and adapt your comments to reflect how they may be received by someone else.

4. Do not say something to someone on-line that you would not say if that person was standing in front of you.

Some suggestions: For receiving feedback:
1. Resist the urge to become defensive. Remember, it is difficult to give feedback too!

2. Take a deep breath. You are not perfect. No one is. We all have things we can work on. This is not about whether you are liked or not.

3. Listen. Then find the truth. Okay, so we are all not perfect. We all have things we can work on. Somewhere in the criticism there will be a suggestion that will allow you to take your writing to the next level. The message might be filled with untruths, but somewhere, trust me, will be something that can be taken and used. So consider and evaluate the criticism. Then decide how to act.

4. Ask for help with your writing challenge. If you need it, ask. Trust me, there are people who want to help.

Finally, thank the person who have you a gift, the gift of believing you are worthy of feedback.


D. Jean Quarles is a writer of Women's Fiction and a Young Adult Science Fiction series. Her latest book, Flight from the Water Planet, Book 1 of The Exodus Series was written with her coauthor, Austine Etcheverry.

D. Jean loves to tell stories of personal growth  where success has nothing to do with money or fame, but of living life to the fullest. She is also the author of the novels: Rocky's Mountains, Fire in the Hole and, Perception. The Mermaid, an award winning short story was published in the anthology, Tales from a Sweltering City.  

She has also compiled a collection of short inspirational material for writers in The Write Balance, Journaling the Writer's Life.
She is a wife, mother, grandmother and business coach. In her free time . . . ha! ha! ha! Anyway, you can find more about D. Jean Quarles, her writing and her books at her website at
Her novels are available in electronic format here, or print format here
You can also follower her at or on Facebook

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