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?

Critique Commentary

This response was so eloquently written that I asked the author to allow me to post it as an article. ~Carole Avila

THOUGHTS ON CRITIQUE

by Alan Morrison

To an author, the reader’s mind is a canvas on which written words paint a picture. If done well, the picture will transport the reader from their personal here and now into the place and time of the story. That is the goal of every writer, but it’s never easy to achieve.

A poorly chosen word, an awkward phrase, flawed punctuation; these and other seemingly trivial faults can result in an incomplete or incorrect picture, one that leads a reader astray or, even worse, pulls them out of the magic trance the writer worked so hard to create.

Alan Morrison Quotation - A

The purpose of a critique should be to point out such things for the author to consider and, if they choose, correct or improve on. The critique is not about the author; it’s about the picture the critic sees. By offering a critique, the critic is allowing the writer to look inside their mind and see the picture the words painted.

That’s how we should view critiques, as gifts of insight. Sometimes they hurt, but they always make a writer better, and that’s the point—to constantly improve.


About the author, Alan Morrison:  Farmboy, mathematician, physicist, fighter pilot, computer scientist, college professor, business owner, executive consultant, author, adventurer, and retiree. “I’ve lived an interesting life, and there’s more to come! Thanks for reading my ramblings.”


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?