Showing posts with label Shirley Corder. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Shirley Corder. Show all posts

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, where she writes to inspire and encourage those in the cancer valley. You can also meet with her on Twitter or FaceBook

Tread Gently - 10 Steps To Provide a Helpful Critique

As a writer, you have to develop a thick skin. No question. Not only do you have to anticipate criticism of your writing, you need to request it.

For two reasons:

1)  Rather be critiqued by a small group of people you trust, than be trashed by thousands "out there" whom you don't even know.
2)  By doing critiques for others, you will develop your own skills in the process.
When I was growing up, my father often said to me, "It's not what you say, it's the way you say it!" And this is true of critiques. Everyone is a critic, because everyone has an opinion. We all know what we like or don't like, or what works or what doesn't. But perhaps we need to learn how to say it, or how to receive the criticism of our darlings.

Today, let's look at how to do a critique as well as what to avoid. Next month we'll look at how to react to a critique.

1. ACCENTUATE THE POSITIVES. Before you start critiquing, scan through the article and look for points you agree with, expressions you enjoy, sections of writing that make you smile. Using the comment section (if using Word Review) leave indications of your reaction. This may be a smiley face ☺ or an "Amen!" Perhaps you will leave a comment, "Oh yes, been there," or "I couldn't agree more." Or maybe you prefer, "I love this!" or "This story is so applicable." You can always do this as you go, but I find often I lose track of the need to encourage when I'm deep in a critique.

2. CONFIRM WITH THE WRITER WHAT SORT OF REVIEW (S)HE WANTS. Does she want an in-depth critique or only a general impression? Your crit partner may want to ask, "Does this work for the Baby Boomer market?" Read it through and resist the temptation to point out the extra spaces and the wrong punctuation. All she's asked for is whether you think it fits her proposed marker. Be careful not to destroy the writer's confidence in her work. Respond with an encouraging but helpful note. "I love it. I think it would improve if you wrote in 1st person though." Or "Great article, but I don't see it fitting in Chicken Soup. I could be wrong though." Or "Where I think this article has potential, I think it would be better for another market." (If possible make a suggestion.) In other words, give some constructive advice about the article, but don't go into picky details. If perhaps you think the article is good, but one illustration doesn't make sense, point that out.

I have had the situation where I've asked "Do you think this might work?" and the person I sent it to spent a good half hour of his precious time marking up every little dot and tittle of the article. The result was a waste of his time, and frustration on my side. I only submitted a draft to see if it would work. This wasn't my best writing and I didn't want a full-on critique of it. (By the way, this is the only time writers should submit a draft to a crit group, and they must be careful the recipients understand that it's a draft.)

3. APPLY YOURSELF TO THE TRUE REASON FOR YOUR CRITIQUE. You want to help the writer—you don't want to show off your own expertise. Make sure you understand the goal of the writer, and seek to find ways to help them achieve those goals. e.g. She has written for Chicken Soup. If you know C.S., look for ways you think the article is suitable and comment. Look for ways that don't fit the C.S. requirements, and point them out. If you don't know the market, say so. But then do the best you can with the critique. Good writing is good writing regardless of the intended market.

4. ASK FOR A POLISHED ARTICLE. If you realise this is a first draft, unless it is the situation as covered in #2, write back and say something generic, like, "This looks as if it has potential, and once you've done more work on it, I'll be happy to give you a full critique." I have been in a situation where a critique partner regularly sent in "first draft" material, relying on her critique group to tidy it up for her. You are not there to write the article. You're there to help make it better.

5. EVALUATE THE WRITING, NOT THE WRITER. Don't make comments like, "You're too preachy." Rather say, "This section comes across as preachy."

6. LOOK FOR ENCOURAGING WAYS TO MAKE YOUR POINT. Perhaps you want to say, "This is weak. You shouldn't use 'he ran fast'. Use a stronger verb." Rather say "Instead of the adverb, you could say 'sprinted'. That sounds stronger."

7. OFFER SUGGESTIONS. Instead of saying, "This sentence doesn't work," say, "How about . . . ?" And give the writer some idea of how they can go about making a change.

8. CORRECT MISUNDERSTANDINGS. As writers, we know what we're trying to say. Sometimes we get it all wrong, but because we can picture the scene, we don't notice the muddiness of the paragraph. You, as a critique partner, may read something and feel confused. Who is speaking here? Tell the writer. "I find this paragraph confusing. I'm not sure who's speaking." And leave it at that. Let the writer sort it out.

9. GUIDE, DON'T TAKE OVER. By all means give a few well chosen suggestions. But don't do a rewrite of the article. The resulting piece may well be much better, but the writer will have learned nothing—except possibly never to ask you for help again.

10. ALLOW FOR FEEDBACK. Members of the group I currently belong to encourage us to write personally to the person who gave the critique in order to clarify what they meant. Perhaps after correcting the section, I may ask "Is this what you mean?" However, if the writer becomes defensive, or wants to argue, say something like, "I have given you my opinion. Feel free to ignore anything you're not happy with." In fact, I almost always say that when I offer a critique. It is only my opinion, and the recipient is free to take it or leave it.

Now over to you. Do you have anything to add? Do you have an example of any of these that you'd like to share with us?

Further posts to read: 
Critiques are Essential by Karen Cioffi-Ventrice
Finding the Right Critique Group by Linda Moore Kurth

Next Month: Gracious Acceptance - Eight Ways to Deal with Critiques by Shirley Corder

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, where she writes to inspire and encourage those in the cancer valley. You can also meet with her on Twitter or FaceBook

Dealing with the First Editor

One of the biggest deterrents to creative writing is the presence of your internal editor. She—or he—loves to interfere with your thought process by pointing out mistakes, typos, missing commas, or errors in your thought process.

"But," you say, "surely this is important? I don't want to produce inferior work."

No, you don't. But the time for editing will come later, once you've finished writing the article or chapter. If you stop to listen to all the suggested corrections of your internal editor, your work will lack creativity and flow and may never get finished.

Sometimes it can be as simple as playing music or wearing headphones. Other times you need to be far more drastic. Acknowledge the presence of your inner editor, then deal with her/him.

Cecil Murphey, in his Writer to Writer blog, is polite when he deals with his inner editor. He admits that he talks aloud. “Be patient," he says. "Let me get on with this. When I finish, I’ll let you rip it apart.”

Karen Swim at Words for Hire banishes her inner critic by "physically kicking her out of the room and locking the door. I have found that acknowledging her presence and ordering her to leave is as effective as it would be on a “real” person. She is only allowed back in when I have written the first draft, and then and only then she gets to have her say."

For me, I admit it all depends on how persistent she is. Sometimes I can be firm. "Go away! I'm busy writing!" And no, I'm not polite like Cec. Other times I do what every parent knows you shouldn't do, and say, "Oh for goodness sake here!" and give in to her.

What about you? How do you deal with this nuisance who tries to correct you as you write? Please share with us by adding a comment below.

SHIRLEY CORDER lives in South Africa with her husband Rob, a hyperactive budgie called Sparky, and an ever expanding family of tropical fish. Hundreds of her inspirational and life-enrichment articles have been published internationally. She is contributing author to nine books to date and her book, Strength Renewed: Meditations for your Journey through Breast Cancer  is available now for pre-order at or at Barnes & Noble (B& You can contact Shirley through her writing website, her Rise and Soar site for encouraging those on the cancer journey, or follow her on Twitter  

Writing to Connect

Ernest Hemingway is quoted as saying, "There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed."

Isn't it true that there are times when writing is a breeze? We sit down, put our fingers to the keyboard, and off we go. Isn't it also true that those times are all too few?

So often we struggle with inspiration. What should we write? What should happen next to that character? Where's the plot going to? You promised the reader 7 ways to improve their blog and you can only think of 5. Perhaps we can't think of what to write about at all—or perhaps we know exactly what we want to say, but the words don't come out the way we want them to.

One of the most basic, but often overlooked tips is: Write to connect.

  • Don't write to satisfy yourself.
  • Don't try to impress your family.
  • Don't try to be someone else.
Write for your readers.

To do that, you have to know who your readers are.

  • What sex?
  • What age?
  • What family situation?

Now write what they want to read.

Wait, shouldn't that be "write what they need to know?"

No. Write what they want to read. Then include information you think will help them. But if they don't want to read your book or article, guess what? They won't.

Visualise your readers as people who will really benefit from what you have to share. Give them faces. Perhaps even write to a person you know--but choose someone you know won't read your article to prevent your preaching at them! Then write in such a way that they will want to read . . . and keep on reading.

Now that you know who you're writing for, you'll find it much easier to write . . . and keep on writing.

I remember listening to a tape recording many years ago. The speaker, Mike Warnke, was sharing of his experience as a new Christian and speaker. He determined to be the very best . . . and studied the top speakers in the field.

He imitated Billy Graham as he thundered out an evangelical message. He spoke with the authority and passion of Kathryn Kuhlmann, as he preached to the sick and invited them to come forward for healing. He urged people to step out in faith in the style of Oral Roberts. Yet he had little or no response.

One day, in frustration, he asked the Lord, "Why don't I get results when I preach?"

To this, he said, the Lord replied, "I don't know. Who are you?"

We can laugh, but isn't that what we do as writers? We long for the inspirational writing ability of Karen Kingsbury, the gift of story telling of Jerry Jenkins and the creativity of J.K.Rowling. We try to use the poetic prowess of Helen Steiner Rice, the tension-creating techniques of Brandilyn Collins and the light-hearted approach of Max Lucado. And we wonder why we don't get results!

Each one of us have our own abilities and gifts. We have strengths unique to our own writing style, and we have weaknesses. When we compare ourselves to other writers, we have no hope. We can't be as good as them. Chances are we won't make the same mistakes as them either. We can't write like them. We're not them.

As you read, admire the writing style of the author, but don't try to copy it. Develop your own style.

  • Study writing techniques.
  • Edit and polish your work until it's the best you can do.
  • Look for advice, critiques, and professional input.
  • Become the best writer you are capable of being.
But always remember: There are millions of writers in the world today. There is only one you.

So sit down in front of the keyboard, put your fingers to the keyboard, and let it rip. Write what your reader wants to hear. Write to make contact.

SHIRLEY CORDER lives in South Africa with her husband Rob, a hyperactive budgie called Sparky, and an ever expanding family of tropical fish. Hundreds of her inspirational and life-enrichment articles have been published internationally. She is contributing author to nine books to date and her book, Strength Renewed: Meditations for your Journey through Breast Cancer  is available now for pre-order at or at Barnes & Noble (B& You can contact Shirley through her writing website, her Rise and Soar site for encouraging those on the cancer journey, or follow her on Twitter  

Writing -- The Daily Dozen

As promised, these final six tips complete the  Daily Dozen exercises for healthy writing.
The first six tips appeared on Writers on the Move last month.

Participles-- the -ing words

This month's warm-up starts yet again with verbs and the dreaded dangling modifiers. And I'm pretty sure every writer, no matter how experienced, has at least one somewhere in a closet or in a closeted manuscript.

Running along the road , the hotel was easy to spot.

Yes, the problem here is easy to spot as well--as easy as a hotel running down the road. The -ing word, now an adjectival form of the verb, attaches itself to the nearest subject in the sentence and hey presto! Fun all round.

But when you're in throes of involvement with your lead character working through his problems, it can be more difficult to isolate.

He thought through his options one by one. Mulling them over, the book seemed to provide the safest answer.

Still a dangling modifier--the book is not mulling over his options, but it's easy to miss this one as the subject of the previous sentence is the man doing the mulling.

Practice writing a few deliberately and you'll soon pick them out in your self-editing.


 Getting Into Your Character's Skins is an excellent article by Shirley Corder. Make sure each character has his or her own vocabulary and speech mannerisms. They should not all use "spiffing fun" as a favorite exclamation unless you show one character being so affected by another that he adopts the words.

This seems obvious but to make characters distinct, they should each have their own favorite, well-differentiated phrases.

Identify these from the start in your character planning.

The Missing Tip

This space is left quite deliberately. I would love you to post your vital daily writing tip in the comments box below and the best one, or ones, will be inserted here next week. 

The Warm Down--vital exercises.

Poetry--one a day

Write it but most of all read it. The compression needed to encapsulate sense and emotion is a wonderful lesson to learn and keep in mind when writing longer pieces.

Be it ten, or a hundred and ten thousand words, each one must be a necessary part of the whole. 

For short poems of the day, visit Magdalena Ball on her Poetry Mondays.


All writers read, but take a chance to read out of your comfort zone to cross-fertilize ideas. Avoid the genre you write in yourself.

Try new avenues to explore new ideas. Go for the books you always told yourself you hated. If they're well written, they may well surprise you by stimulating your imagination in new ways.


A cop out? Not at all. Only with rest and relaxation can your mind work at optimum level. Set aside one day, or a half day if you really feel you can't afford the time, to pamper your writer's soul.

It's not a new idea. I loved it when I found it in The Artist's Way by Julia Cameron. As the computer nerds say--garbage in, garbage out.

Take time to do what you love. Walk in the wild woods, visit art galleries and museums, socialize. And your writing will benefit accordingly.

 Anne Duguid is a senior content editor with MuseItUp Publishing and   her New Year's Resolution is to blog with helpful writing,editing and publishing tips at Slow and Steady Writers far more regularly than she managed in 2011.

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