Best Critique Advice I’ve Received

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?


  1. My favorite lesson was not about writing, but actually the process of critiquing. When I first joined a crit group I was also the newbie, and the head of the group had a helpful way of going around and giving advice.
    The sandwich method - you say something nice about what you read, then give advice on how to improve, and end on something nice again.
    It may seem silly, but for the shy girl who felt like she didn't know what she was doing, it was nice to think that people also thought I was doing something right.

  2. That's a great piece of advice, especially for the new kid on the block! I, too, love my crit group. I feel so fortunate to share ideas and thoughts with other writers who know so much more than I do about the genre.

    My favorite lesson about critiques? A writing class instructor once suggested the Two C's: list anything you as the reader are curious to know more about, anything that confuses you. This was helpful because it narrowed down our reviews into concise areas instead of a rather unhelpful, "I liked it."

  3. I just recently had a fantastic first time at a critique group as well! Being involved in a critique group/workshop/online beta readers is one of the most valuable ways writers can spend their time, IMO. So glad your critique session went well!

    What I've learned? Hmmm...I think, definitely, that you have to be careful. There ARE predators out there in the writing world who just want to put you down.

    Having said that, it's been valuable to me to take a step back and weigh each proposed change with a critical eye. I usually make a list of all proposed changes (noting if more than one person said it), which allows me to divorce (somewhat) the suggestion from the person who made the suggestion, and then I just go down the list and cross out what I disagree with, and then I make that I either agree with or can see where they're coming from enough to take their word on it.

    I'm usually surprised to find that, even though I never initially like proposed changes, I end up using about 60 - 70% of the critiques given. So it's very valuable!!!!

  4. Critique groups are amazing things, and they help thicken your skin - which is so important! At first, I couldn't take the thought of someone not liking my work, but as I started to take comments on board, I realised the usefulness of alternate perspectives. In fact, a critique group turned my novel in the direction that saved it from being abandoned.

    Enjoy yours!

  5. Heather - The sandwich method is a great technique!

    TL - I'd never heard of the "two Cs" approach before, but I'm adding it to my faves! Thanks for shraring.

    Annalise - Me too! I've always found it helpful to get perspective on everybody's comments before applying all of them.

    Miss Cole - I'm so glad your novel got resurrected!