Sunday, 3 October 2010


You have written your short story, novel or script and it is time to send it out there. But are you ready for the resulting opinion. Whether it is just within your writing circle or critique partner or perhaps with a professional critiquing service, agent or editor, as writers we need to prepare ourselves for the criticism.

That’s not easy. Often we have worked hard, agonizing over our “babies”, trying to write something that is going to attract a publisher. For writers it feels like we are walking naked down the high street when we let others read our work. It is like bearing our soul - offering it up like a sacrifice, in order to gauge opinion.

We can be sensitive and protective of our work, so criticism can be hard to stomach. It can be painful, like grating your heart down a cheese grater, or walking over the pebbles on the beach. Ouch....
But it is a necessary evil if we are to be successful.

So what do we want from our writing circle or critique partner, when we finally pluck up courage to let them read or hear our work.

We want them to tell us they love it, of course. That they are in awe of our talent, plot, characters etc.....Of course we do.
But is that going to help us? Well it might boost our ego but get us closer to publication, it will not.

What we really need is comments on our plot etc. Is it well realized, believable? Are our characters well drawn, is our dialogue natural and clear? Receiving comments like these will help you to see its strengths and flaws.

So what can we do to prepare ourselves for the critique?

Below are some pointers that Hilary Johnson gave at the London and Southeast Chapter of the Romantic Novelist’s Association meeting in September. Hilary is known for her straight talking critical appraisals and her web site can be found here.

Hilary's key points are

1. Remember that your initial reactions aren't to be trusted! So manage your emotions, or let off steam in private.

2. Take the time to absorb the feedback - read it carefully several times, at intervals.

3. Consider the comments in a detached way, noting the good as well as the bad.4. Focus on particularly irksome parts of the feedback, in order to understand them more fully - the reader will normally back up their comments with evidence from your work.

5. Most importantly, to become a successful writer you have to turn criticism to good account - be 'your own editor' and consider incorporating at least some of the reader's advice.
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Of course, it helps if our critique partner or writing circle are sensitive, yet honest, when giving their critique. Check back into the blog for an article on how best to critique the work of others.

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