I’m lucky enough to have been part of some amazing crit groups over the years! My fellow critters are some of my closest writing friends. Yet, on my first night at our local writing studio, I was unsure, hesitant and scared. I didn’t know them and had never before shared my work on this level. At the time, I was a newbie in a crowd of veterans…and then, they gave me the best advice about accepting critiques.
“Don’t take anything we say personally, but always take it to heart.”
What a powerful little piece of encouragement and affirmation! I try to apply this to any editing I do and for all the new writers I meet. For me, it hits on two key points:
There is a vast difference between YOU and YOUR NOVEL
In a critique session, no one—not a friend, not an agent, not an editor—should be critiquing you. All the advice and comments should be directed to what’s on the page. So, you never have to worry about being hurt personally.
Sure, some things will be hard to hear. You might really need improvement in certain areas. But advice about those trouble spots comes from a place of kindness and helpfulness. It’s meant to make you a better writer, not to malign you or belittle you as a person.
Once you realize that, it frees you from many of the common fears about getting critiqued.
Don’t ignore a critique
Occasionally, out of fear, uncertainty or arrogance, we brush off comments from critters. There are a million excuses we use to justify this: No one else has mentioned that point. The person just didn’t get what I was trying to do. It’ll take too much work to change that – I bet it’s not that big of a deal.
I try hard to always take someone’s critique to heart, because even if it’s just one person’s reaction, it made them stop and stumble as a reader. And I want to avoid that at all costs. As authors, we should always be listening to our readers. Yes, in the end I may decide to ignore the suggestion, but I am careful to give it due diligence before making that call.
Critiques can be great (and humbling) learning opportunities. I think the best approach is to accept them gracefully, review them carefully and apply them.
How about you? What are some of your favorites lessons about critiques?