When You Aren’t Crazy About Critique


My daughter was born jaundiced and with a birth defect. The combination of her tiny black mask to protect her eyes and casts on her legs caused people to take a second look at the nursery.

I was standing in front of the window, my belly still swollen from birth. My emotions just under the surface. A woman came up beside me and pointed at my child.

“What’s wrong with that one?”

It was an honest question. She was most likely curious, or just didn’t know. My response, however, was as if she had attacked my child with a machete.

Sometimes we respond the same way when someone critiques our words. We’ve given birth to them. We’ve prayed over them. When someone says, “Your hook is buried on the second page,” or “You need to tighten your prose,” we may act as if they are attacking our offspring.

Publishing isn’t a one-man show. It’s a team effort and receiving critique is key. The more you advance as a writer, the more team members that join in. Magazine editors. Copy editors. Acquisition editors. Marketing team. Sales team. Each of their perspectives make our work stronger. At some point we come to welcome critique—or we get stuck.

In today’s tip, we explore some tips to help you receive critique and grow through it.

Weigh who is offering the critique.

Your neighbor, your mom, and your best friend all said that your writing was perfect. Then that editor or critique partner points out a flaw.

Which carries the most weight?

It’s not that your neighbor, mom, or best friend don’t matter. They do. However, that individual who has devoted years to publishing may see something that they don’t. They are also impartial.

Weigh the critique itself.

Sometimes a critique isn’t that great. It happens. However, usually there’s benefit in a critique from a seasoned writer, or critique group.

Even if you don’t like the critique, let the words soak in. Don’t respond emotionally. If you need, give it a day or two before picking your manuscript up to read it in light of their suggestions. You might be surprised at what you find.

Weigh the benefits.

Last year I went through my blog to update or eliminate old posts. I was stunned by the difference that eight years makes.

I deleted some of the posts so fast they whizzed past me on the screen to the trash. Others had potential. I could clearly see the evidence of growth as the years of blog posts passed by.

The benefits of critique are long term. It’ll make you a better writer, if you allow it.

YOUR ASSIGNMENT IF YOU CHOOSE TO ACCEPT
  1. Find an old blog post or piece of writing. Do a critique of it.
  2. Note one polishing point (how to make it stronger) and one praise point for that piece. Share those here.
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Suzie Eller is a COMPEL mentor and Community Coordinator.

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Comments

  1. Looking back at my early blog posts from 4 months ago I see that I have lots of run on sentences that need to be cut down. Also, I can see that I am now incorporating sticky statements. Instead of focusing on 3 points in a blogs I am focusing on only one main point in my more recent blogs, making them more laser focused and easier to follow. I still have a lot to learn and so much more room to grow. Life long learner here.

  2. Suzie, I laughed out loud at the honesty of this piece. I can relate (and I don’t even have any offspring yet)! At times, I am positively a mama bear about my writing. It’s silly really.

    I was reminded of a writing piece (short story) that a friend wanted to use in a publication. Sadly, I didn’t believe in the piece as much as he did so the thought of it going public was too much for me to bear. I turned him down. (I know, I know … Jesus is doing a work in my heart).

    First, I apologized to him. Then, I went back and took another look at it. I could see what he saw. Though it was too late for him to publish it, I was inspired to revisit several short stories that I had written and forgotten about. Pretty cool. Thank you for sharing your insights with us, Suzie!

    jm

  3. I am pulling a series I posted a year ago off of my blog and putting into an ebook to use as a lead magnet. It has been a blessing to see the ways my writing has improved over the last year. I am finding it is far easier to clean up and update the posts that it would be to write all new material. My biggest takeaway from this project is to not wait to write. Start where you are because you can repurpose the ideas later.

  4. I need to become thicker skinned. It isn’t that I think I’m the best but rather I’m unsure that I am good enough. Like you said, we’ve given birth to the words we’ve written. We’ve prayed over them and then someone suggests changes. What? How could I possibly make changes? I’ve already wrestled with what to say and how to say it. Now, you want me to change it? I need to learn to not take things so personally and receive criticism with gratitude. ~ts

  5. I have been part of a critique group for almost 3 years now. It was very nerve-wracking in the beginning! NOW, its a valuable part of all my writing. I seek it out with all that I right. It’s worth the risk!!

  6. Wonderful piece regarding critique. Thank you.

    1. I reread a static page on my website.
    2. Critique: There are way too many “I’s.” Although Jesus Christ is mine and I am His, the heart of this page is to allow one more person to fall in love with the love of Jesus. “I” need to get out of the way.
    Praise: Jesus’s name is declared. {I feel that} this page is personal, doctrinal and scripture filled. 🙂

    Further critique would be more than welcomed! 🙂

  7. This is a wonderful post! Thank you! Well written!

  8. I am critiquing an old devotional blog post. I feel that it flows well from opening narrative to truth to take away. A polishing point may be to tighten the writing to eliminate run-ons and unnecessary words.