Critiques and Why We Need Them

My first story every written was a magnificent creative work that gave me the greatest sense of accomplishment and satisfaction. My heart saturated every word and thirsted to share it with the world.

But then I endured my first critique by people outside of my family and immediate circle of “that’s nice” friends. A gamut of emotions washed over me: shamed, disappointment, humiliation, embarrassment.

Having invested my soul into my manuscript, it never dawned on me that I may have had a good story but didn’t do a good job of writing it. How could a good story be poorly written? “Easily” is the answer.

If you haven’t read a lot of books to see what the good attributes are of a well written work, if you haven’t taken many writing classes, if you haven’t asked questions of good writers, then you might not be able to create a written masterpiece right out of the starting gate.

It’s rare when a person can sit at a piano for the first time and play a song. It takes time and practice to learn finger placement and how to read music. It’s just as rare to write a flawless story without making changes—corrections included—the first time it is written.

A person who wants to see you create a better product is willing to be an honest champion of your work. They don’t want to discourage you from writing but encourage you to learn ways that improve your writing skills. That means they will gladly point out all the grammar, punctuation, and spelling errors. (This is the editing process). They’ll also point out problems with syntax, character development, plot line, and overall story structure. (That’s a critique.)

Don’t get defensive, don’t make excuses when someone offers you an idea that may potentially help your story. Admit that you should have paid more attention in English classes or used your thesaurus more often. Yes, you may need a thick skin to accept constructive criticism. However, if you’re open to the possibility that others have your best interest at heart and can help make viable improvements to your work, you will create a better story and become a top-notch writer.

You don’t have your work critiqued and edited for yourself—you do it for your reader. If you intend to sell your books, this is the best process you can put your work through. You don’t have to accept all the suggestions, but before you discount them, get the opinion of other readers and see how they react to the changes.

And the end result? A story that will hold your reader’s attention, draw them into the pages rather than kicking them out with every mistake they uncover. A good critique will make your work more attractive to the reader providing them more entertainment value which lead to sales.

The best part is that you will become a more professional writer, eventually putting out material with less mistakes, less need for changes, the first time around. Eventually, constructive criticism will be much easier to accept. In fact, you’ll be welcoming it!

What was your first experience with constructive criticism, be it on your writing or something else important to you?

Constructive Criticism – One of a Writers Greatest Assets

It hurts like a stab to the heart, like being told you’re not good enough. It often feels like a personal attack, yet constructive criticism is one of the most helpful tools in a writer’s arsenal for improving their craft.

Anytime a comment or suggestion is made to improve work that is based on a genuine desire to help write a better story, it needs to be welcomed like a rare gift, because often times it is. One can keep asking family and friends what they think about a story, and they’ll keep saying, “That’s nice,” “It’s really good,” or other vague compliments that do nothing to move the work forward.

Constructive criticism doesn’t always sound positive or feel good yet can’t be taken personally. Knowledgeable comments or suggestions for change will probably make your work better. Someone who offers a good critique shares what works as well as what doesn’t, showing how to flesh out the characters, drive the plot, offer better word choices, improve sentence structure, tighten the narrative, or anything else that serves to make an improvement in a written work.

Quote on Constructive Criticism

Someone may wrongly belittle a hopeful writer, but whatever immature insults are slung at their work have to be disregarded and chalked up to an inferior nature on the part of the unfair critic. If their comments aren’t positive or provide suggestions for positive change in the work, let it go, but know the difference between a person who is being deliberately hurtful or one who is genuine in their desire to be helpful.

Criticism is needed from other writers to get a better feel for the flavor and direction of a story. It’s valuable in predicting the response of the reader. It can develop a thick skin to taunting and slights, only allowing beneficial information to come through and can provide a stronger foundation for the entire manuscript to stand on.

All in all, constructive criticism is a tremendous asset and a necessary tool in the craft of writing.

Show Don’t Tell – Super Basics in Creative Writing

Writing Pen and JournalRecently I shared an example of “Show, Don’t Tell” with a fellow student in my writing class. This was such a hard concept for me to learn. The examples may not be stellar, but I think they get the point across.

When you want to “show, don’t tell,” describe the senses and employ the use of descriptions, not just for physical objects but actions, too.

This is telling:  “Mary was so upset because she couldn’t apply her make-up just right. She only had one hour to go before her blind date, Roger, picked her up. Her best friend from work, Sally, fixed her up. It would be Mary’s first date in a year since she broke up with Fred.”

LipstickThis is showing: “Her eyeliner was too thick, the concealer caked under her eyes, and she swiped on too much pink blush that made her look like a call girl. If only Mary’s hand would stop shaking so she could reapply her make-up before her blind date arrived.

Sally, Mary’s co-worker, brightened up when she spoke of her brother, Roger, and Mary imagined enjoying his down to earth, yet exciting personality. She needed someone like that since her break up with compulsive and pretentious Fred. Mary relaxed her clenched jaw and took a deep breath, then poured some make-up remover onto a cottonball.

Instead of telling that “The fire truck went rapidly down the street” show how “The massive red fire engine roared over potholes and left trash flying in its wake.”

singerUse original metaphors and similes to tell your story.

A metaphor or simile helps your reader to easily envision the thoughts you’re trying to convey. “He seemed as tall as the tree in my grandmother’s garden,” or “He fought like a man with no arms,” or “She sang as if chalkboard scratching was a new art form.”

What is one of your favorite “show, don’t tell” sentences, be it yours or from another author?