Tuesday, September 28

Critique With Tact

So today I thought I would talk about how to Critique With TactI'm sure most of us have learned the hard way how damaging a bad critique can be. Unfortunately, no one can prevent harsh critiques from happening, but we can talk about how to give a good critique.

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No matter how much you may dislike the chapter or story you are critiquing, you must find something positive to say! This is non-negotiable. Remember, a smile and a nice comment can go a long way. Don't underestimate that.

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Point out what you do like! Writers need to know this just as much as they need to know what you didn't like.

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Before you decide to do a critique for someone, find out how they tend to deal with critiques. If they are known to get whiny and/or cranky after a critique, it might not be a good idea to crit for them. Remember, you can say no if someone asks you to crit for them. It isn't selfish to say no. You're likely saving yourself and the other person a lot of grief.

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When you're critiquing for someone, keep in mind what stage of revisions they're at. If they're just starting revisions (or aren't finished their story yet), line edits aren't going to be very helpful-- they'll be overwhelming! If you're not sure what sort of critique they're looking for, ask them! Some (like myself), like to have everything laid on them, while others can't work like that.

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Be honest, not harsh. If you think it's going to be a harsh critique, go back and reword your comments and add more positive things. I know I've had to do this a couple of times. But guess what? I'm still friends with these people and they didn't make voodoo dolls of me (that I know of), so clearly it worked.

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Be aware of voice differences between yourself and whoever it is you're critiquing. Some changes you'll want to make are going to be voice related. Stop and think before you make any changes or suggestions to their story. A critique should be thoughtful, not hasty.

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Ask questions! If you're reading and stumble across something you're not sure of (either about their story or writing-wise), ask them! For one, this shows you're actually interested in their story and paying attention. It can be very flattering to know someone cares enough to ask a question. As well, your questions might help them out. I know my critique partners have asked me questions that made me scratch my head thinking, "Huh. I never thought of it that way before."

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Find your critique voice. Agents and editors always talk about finding your writing voice, but you also need to find your critique voice. This is extremely important and can help you out a lot. For example, I often add humour to my crits. I will go to any lengths to make sure I don't hurt their feelings (we're friends first and foremost). However, that doesn't mean I don't give tough critiques. Trust me, I do. But I've found a way to make sure it doesn't necessarily seem like I am.

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So what about you? Have you ever received a harsh crit? Do you have a critique voice?

Tomorrow I'm going to talk about my critique partners and why it's important to have all of them.

xoxo

8 comments:

  1. The things you've said here are part of the reasons why I left the first critique group I was in. We ran it on a private blog. One person never said anything positive about the stuff I'd put up there. It was always "fix this, change this, this is bad," etc.

    It kills the muse.

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  2. Great advice. And yes, I've got very hard crits before...but to be honest, they have always been correct, once I got over my hurt to really read them objectively.

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  3. Great post, Nat. I admit to not being the most tactful person in the world, but I think my crits are okay. (You'd know better than I would.) I've received enough harsh crits to know I don't like them and so I try not to be harsh when someone gives me something to read. (But, like I said, others might know better on this.)

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  4. Great tips! I think especially knowing where the other writer is in the process is helpful. I go more big-picture with drafts and more line-editing-style with a very late revision. But I try to frame my comments as my suggestions, ideas to consider, and "it seems to me that..." rather than edicts.

    Tact is so important! I think the worst crit I ever got was someone saying of character interactions and scenes "this is just filler." Talk about rude and dismissive. Had she said "I'm not sure how this contributes to the overall story" or "this feels like a detour" I would have found the crit helpful instead of just mean.

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  5. You are one of the best critter partners I've ever had. You always make me LMAO. Always. And you don't use kid gloves either. You've kicked my ass more than once, but the book just keeps on getting better :D I heart you.

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  6. I've had some harsh critiques that weren't helpful and others that were. It's been mostly positive, but it is amazing, as Stephanie said, how much a hurtful critique can kill the muse... or at least make you less likely to share your manuscripts.

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  7. Stephanie- Aww, I'm sorry you didn't have a very good experience. And I agree, it does kill the muse.

    Christine- Thanks! Well, what I'm talking about here are crits that aren't necessairly correct, but are just plain mean. And a crit is always easier to swallow if you are nice in them, ya know? =)

    B.E.- Thanks. You're crits aren't harsh =)

    Laurel- Thank you! Yes, thats a very good point. I always try to go for conversational in my crits. I talk to/with the author, rather than lecture them.

    Mel- Lol you're cute ;)

    Tina- Aww thank you love =) ♥ I try.

    Wendy- I agree. A hurtful crit can really kill the muse. It sucks when that happens, because it was preventable!

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