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« The Beta Club Crit Project is ON! Come sign up! | Main | Streamlined Social Networking »

How Do You Handle Critiques? (and a call for Volunteers)


Getting feedback is a necessary part of this business of writing.  I didn't realize the true meaning of that when I first started--I thought my mom loving my first novel was more than enough.  :)  But as we've discussed before, your mama isn't a valid beta reader.


So we go out and we find critique groups or send our manuscript out to beta readers, then we brace ourselves for the feedback.  We know what we want to hear: "You're fabulous, this is ready for submission, you don't need to edit a thing."  But usually the crit is decidedly less stellar (unless it's from your mom.)

So when the tough feedback comes your way?  How do you handle it?  Do you get angry, down on yourself, blame the critiquer, want to give up and go back to your day job?  Or do you breathe through it and look at the feedback as a gift for you to work with?

I've gotten a range of reactions when giving critiques to others's work.  I admit I'm a tough critter.  And I usually warn people of that before I offer to read their stuff.  But of course, people usually say, "Bring it on, I want honesty."

In some cases, that's true.  I've critted for a number of people outside my critique group and most have been awesome about receiving the feedback (including Tina Lynn whose twitter comment to me inspired this post.)  I've also gotten the stunned reaction--the "oh, okay, eighty crit comments on ten pages, um thanks."  Which I take to mean the person is either ticked off at me, dismissing my opinions, or really just needs time to soak the feedback in.

We each have our own way of dealing with those emotions that flood us after hearing the negative feedback.  Some of us tend to direct our anger and frustration outward--being defensive, getting angry at or discrediting/dismissing the critiquer--she doesn't know what she's talking about, this isn't her genre, and anyway, her work isn't that fabulous either.

 Others direct it inward--blaming themselves--I'm never going to be able to do this.  I suck. Why do I even bother?  Most of us tend to lean toward one pattern or the other--and this goes for life in general, not just for this specific situation.  Type ones get mad, type twos get depressed--same emotion just directed in a different way.

I am definitely a type two person.  I blame myself, wonder if I'll ever be good enough, yadda yadda yadda.  I've very rarely been frustrated with the critter themselves.  But either type can learn something from the other.


  • Type ones need to take a breath and reflect.  They need to look for the truth in the comments, absorb the responsibility for the mistakes they may have made, and direct the frustration into determining which changes they think are valid and which ones they are going to ignore.  And most of all, do not be rude to the critter.  They took the time to give you honest feedback, which is not an easy thing to do.
  • Type twos need to realize that a crit is just an opinion.  Sure, there is probably truth in most of what someone says, but not everything they say is cardinal law.  If type twos aren't careful, they'll end up flipping their story upside down every time they get a different crit trying to please everyone.  You have to remember that it is ultimately your story.  Make sure you pick and choose which advice you want to go with.
Okay, so related to this topic, I wanted to ask if anyone would be willing to be critted here on the blog?  This would mean you submit your first few pages and I offer a crit in a post along with getting feedback from commenters?  Obviously, this takes some bravery, but also means you could get some invaluable feedback from a bunch of talented writers (a  la Public Query Slushpile or Miss Snark's First Victim).  Everyone could also learn from each other on what to look for in a crit.  

If you think this would be a valuable tool, then let me know in the comments.  If you are willing to submit pages to get that critique, also let me know.  If you don't want to do it in the comments--just email me (click the little blue @ symbol under my picture.)

Alright, so back to the original topic, which camp do you fall in?  How do you handle a bad crit?  Have you ever had anyone get upset with you over a crit you gave them?  

**Today's Theme Song**
"Say It Ain't So" - Weezer
(player in sidebar--go ahead, take a listen)


Reader Comments (42)

I would totally submit something. You know how I feel about your mad skills:D I'm a type two, for sure. If I do get angry at all, it's at myself. But I can get a little down in the dumps. But every crit I've ever gotten has resulted in me learning something new. It's a gift and I always feel thankful for it. Oh, and thanks for the linkage. *blushes* I feel so special.

February 24, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterTina Lynn

I'm a total type 2. I immediately assume that my writing is so heinously crap that I'll never amount to anything -- CERTAINLY not a published author!

But I make myself absorb comments for a minimum of a day before doing anything. Some people recommend three days.

Usually, the comments that are right, and resonate with the story I want to tell, are the ones I think about after the mandatory cooling off period.

The crit on your blog is a good idea but I will offer a caution: people can be harsh for a variety of reasons. No writer wants to be condescended to. Although I'm sure your followers and commenters woudln't do that, I remain surprised at some of the comments I see for submissions at Miss Snark's first victim blog. People who submit should be prepared for that.

February 24, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterSierra Godfrey

Type 2, here!

I enjoy the ability to post snippets of my work on my own blog, but I feel like people are probably being nicer than they would be for an actual crit because they're at my blog and being polite.

I'd love the chance to get more feedback, even if it is anonymous.

Sierra, you're right to caution about people being harsh, but I think the good (read:constructive) critiques usually outweigh the harsh ones, and a writer's got to thicken their skin against bad reviews eventually. Might as well start early. ;)

Great post, Roni!

February 24, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterTere Kirkland

I'd submit, just b/c I think the opinions of relative strangers are more valuable.

February 24, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterBane of Anubis

I have swung from a type two to a type one over the years. Alas, there is nothing like grad school to make you question anyone's ultimate authority to discern what is really "good".

I (hope, pray) believe I'm sloooowly maturing into a type 3: one who can look at a crit and say, "huh, that's an interestng interpretation" and "ooh, if I make this change, it opens up possibilities for X and Y and Z" or "what changes would make this section more clear or appealing to readers like Miss Beta?"

February 24, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterlaurel

Sierra, you're absolutely right. I know some people can be outright rude. I will make it clear that all feedback would need to be constructive. If it's not, I'll delete the comment.

February 24, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterRoni @ FictionGroupie

Excellent post, Roni. I am by far a Type 2. I take everything to heart, though I'm making a strong effort to see things objectively.

I totally support the critique idea you mentioned. Personally, my MS is sitting for a while until I can edit it with fresh eyes, but if I had something ready, I would submit it.

February 24, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterShelley Sly

In school we have Peer Reviewers. We submit our papers to be reviewed and get feedback from our peers. It is a bit easier getting feedback from an anonymous person.

February 24, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterChristiejolu

Heck, I litter my own blog with my literary filth, why not yours. Count me in! Also, I am wondering, since you didn't say, that first drafts are okay.

February 24, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJonathon Arntson

Jonathon, first drafts are great--more opportunity to critique. ;)

February 24, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterRoni @ FictionGroupie

Oh yeah. I'm a type two for sure. I don't get angry with anyone but myself...espeically when it comes to my writing.

And I'd happy to submit a few pages of my MS! Getting feedback is always helpful (and can be pretty fun) and this seems like a really neat way to go about it :D

February 24, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterKayKay

I'm really excited so many of you are willing to participate. That's awesome! I feel a theme coming on...hmm, Feedback Friday perhaps?

February 24, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterRoni @ FictionGroupie

I think I'm more of a type 1 than 2, although, I have been known to wallow.

I'd love to send you some pages for a critique session. That would be totally awesome.

February 24, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterPiedmont Writer

I used to be a little of both but I think I have learned to deal with critique much better than I used to. I have learned that it is just one person's opinion and if I feel strongly enough that my work is fine as is, well...I tend to go with my gut. But if I hear the same type of comments from different people...I give the change serious consideration. I love getting feedback...helps me find spots in the story that are confusing to the reader. And it's nice to hear the good points of your work too!

I love feedback from completely unbiased if you need another volunteer, count me in!!!! I have Spellbound, which you already critiqued chap. 1. But I have a few other rough pieces too...including a start to a sequel for A Bitch Named one has read that yet!!!

February 24, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterStephanie

My palms are getting sweaty just typing this, so I guess that makes me a Type 2.

I still haven't had a critique for my ms, but I need one. BADLY. It's hard to look at your own writing and know what works and what is a complete failure.

So, here goes. Count me in! I would LOVE to have 80 marks in 10 pages. Give me some direction! (But please do so kindly. I am a Type 2, after all.)

February 24, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJenE

I'm not totally Type 1, because I really don't get mad when I receive criticism, and I rarily give in to that embarrassing "LET ME TELL YOU THE ENTIRE PLOT SO YOU'LL UNDERSTAND" inclination.

I do welcome and take advice when I recognize it is valid. Though sometimes if a valued critter confesses that they don't really like a novel... no kidding, it can really hurt.

I think I'm a little bit of both?

@critting project - It depends? I don't really want to post more than the first page (250-300 words) where it could be googled. I'm neurotic like that. S)

February 24, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterCatherine Kariaxi

Great idea! And I would submit to you. Just let me know how much you want.

As for getting feedback, I dread waiting for it but then I kind of love getting it. Even the harsh stuff. It makes me feel more like a REAL writer, like I am actually doing this - and that makes me pretty damn happy.

I would be happy to submit something. :) Count me in. :)

February 24, 2010 | Unregistered Commentersarahjayne smythe

I'm definitely a type 2, but I usually just need a few days to mull it over. Ultimately, I love a good crit. And I'd love to submit some pages for shredding on your blog. :) Fabulous idea!

February 24, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAbby Annis

Type 2 here as well... aren't we are toughest critics anyway?

February 24, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJm Diaz

Roni, I'm interested to see where this takes you and the other writers. I don't have any ms's to submit, but I'd love to see what your friends share, and see how everyone critiques. I haven't done anything like that since the college days, so it'd be fun to observe from the sidelines, and maybe throw out a cheer here and there. Great idea!

February 24, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterjenheadjen

I really appreciate a good critique. I want to know how to make my writing better. I want to know where the weak spots are. I never get mad at the person who was willing to take the time to give me feedback. Sometimes I do get down on myself, but only because I either knew better and was being lazy or I'm just not sure how to fix it.

February 24, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMary Campbell

What are the rules? Will you post the submissions anonymously? (I would prefer that because I'm totally --and for no reason--paranoid). Will you limit it to like the first 5 pages? That could be a lot of reading. Maybe the first page and a half?

With some defined rules this could be a huge, huge thing! (if you do it so the submitter is anon, then I'm in.)

February 24, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterSierra Godfrey

Sierra, I'm thinking through rules this afternoon. Here's what I'm considering:
-anonymous if the author wants it to be
-and I agree with you about length, i'm going to look at a few word lengths, I'm thinking maybe 1000 words? i don't want it to be too long because i people have a lot of blogs to read
-I also need to decide whether to do it once a week or twice a week
-I'm open to suggestions from everyone, I can post official guidelines tomorrow and we can get started

February 24, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterRoni @ FictionGroupie

I'm game..I am totally type two. I run a crit group called the Cudas and we pride ourselves on our unabashed honesty. When I make them happy, then I know I'm in good shape. Not everyone can handle our critique style, but I know it's made all of us so much better writers.

February 24, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterLisa Amowitz

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