How Do You Handle Critiques? (and a call for Volunteers)


Getting feedback is a necessary part of this business of writing.  I didn't realize the true meaning of that when I first started--I thought my mom loving my first novel was more than enough.  :)  But as we've discussed before, your mama isn't a valid beta reader.


So we go out and we find critique groups or send our manuscript out to beta readers, then we brace ourselves for the feedback.  We know what we want to hear: "You're fabulous, this is ready for submission, you don't need to edit a thing."  But usually the crit is decidedly less stellar (unless it's from your mom.)

So when the tough feedback comes your way?  How do you handle it?  Do you get angry, down on yourself, blame the critiquer, want to give up and go back to your day job?  Or do you breathe through it and look at the feedback as a gift for you to work with?

I've gotten a range of reactions when giving critiques to others's work.  I admit I'm a tough critter.  And I usually warn people of that before I offer to read their stuff.  But of course, people usually say, "Bring it on, I want honesty."

In some cases, that's true.  I've critted for a number of people outside my critique group and most have been awesome about receiving the feedback (including Tina Lynn whose twitter comment to me inspired this post.)  I've also gotten the stunned reaction--the "oh, okay, eighty crit comments on ten pages, um thanks."  Which I take to mean the person is either ticked off at me, dismissing my opinions, or really just needs time to soak the feedback in.

We each have our own way of dealing with those emotions that flood us after hearing the negative feedback.  Some of us tend to direct our anger and frustration outward--being defensive, getting angry at or discrediting/dismissing the critiquer--she doesn't know what she's talking about, this isn't her genre, and anyway, her work isn't that fabulous either.

 Others direct it inward--blaming themselves--I'm never going to be able to do this.  I suck. Why do I even bother?  Most of us tend to lean toward one pattern or the other--and this goes for life in general, not just for this specific situation.  Type ones get mad, type twos get depressed--same emotion just directed in a different way.

I am definitely a type two person.  I blame myself, wonder if I'll ever be good enough, yadda yadda yadda.  I've very rarely been frustrated with the critter themselves.  But either type can learn something from the other.


  • Type ones need to take a breath and reflect.  They need to look for the truth in the comments, absorb the responsibility for the mistakes they may have made, and direct the frustration into determining which changes they think are valid and which ones they are going to ignore.  And most of all, do not be rude to the critter.  They took the time to give you honest feedback, which is not an easy thing to do.
  • Type twos need to realize that a crit is just an opinion.  Sure, there is probably truth in most of what someone says, but not everything they say is cardinal law.  If type twos aren't careful, they'll end up flipping their story upside down every time they get a different crit trying to please everyone.  You have to remember that it is ultimately your story.  Make sure you pick and choose which advice you want to go with.
Okay, so related to this topic, I wanted to ask if anyone would be willing to be critted here on the blog?  This would mean you submit your first few pages and I offer a crit in a post along with getting feedback from commenters?  Obviously, this takes some bravery, but also means you could get some invaluable feedback from a bunch of talented writers (a  la Public Query Slushpile or Miss Snark's First Victim).  Everyone could also learn from each other on what to look for in a crit.  

If you think this would be a valuable tool, then let me know in the comments.  If you are willing to submit pages to get that critique, also let me know.  If you don't want to do it in the comments--just email me (click the little blue @ symbol under my picture.)

Alright, so back to the original topic, which camp do you fall in?  How do you handle a bad crit?  Have you ever had anyone get upset with you over a crit you gave them?  

**Today's Theme Song**
"Say It Ain't So" - Weezer
(player in sidebar--go ahead, take a listen)