Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Critique: Compassion & Cojones

Critique: Compassion and Cojones

You’re a writer. Hours have been spent thinking about, sorting, and organizing your ideas. The excitement of a new story causes the fingers to fly and the pages to fill. Common distractions and lost train-of -thought bring the story to a screeching halt and firmly implants the dreaded writer’s block.

Eventually, the complete story makes it to a word processor; limbo for fiction. This is where the story suffers the keyboard clacks of the editing process, and enjoys the utopia of anonymity before being submitted to the public and…the critique.

You’ve made the first tentative step into the black hole of the critical public eye. The initial apprehension has worn off. Only a residual of apprehension remains as your prose awaits judgment.

Think that first step was the hardest?


Solicited or not, your excuses and explanations are offered to the reader to help soften those first critiquing words that will have you seeing your story in a different light. Your hands are twitching and new thoughts are running. A few edits and revisions are inevitable; you know it’s true. You accept it, planned for it, and you’re prepared for it.

Or are you?

In the world of writing, the reading public isn’t always right, but should always be listened to. Easily defined but not easily executed, a critique is a crucial part of the writing process. It’s also where the writer can make their biggest mistake.

The writer isn’t always their own worst critic. Putting your prose into the hands of readers who are unable to offer a subjective critique is a detriment to both the writing and the writer.

Critiques come in several problematic forms: gushing with praise, focusing on grammar while ignoring storyline, harsh on an unfamiliar genre, etc.

Remember that first tentative step of offering your writing up for critique? Get over the fear. You’ll have to submit to critique several times and in several places before finding a critiquing atmosphere that is thoughtful, thorough and a benefit to your writing style.

Criticism can be as difficult to accept as it is to give. Take a step back and think about the critiques you’ve already received. Have they provided insight and a fresh point-of-view? Do they make you defensive and dig in your heels?

Stay true to your writing, but leave your ego at the door. The critics are on their way…

Dedicated to Elise VanCise, my sister-in-heart, and writing partner. I’m thankful every day to have a critic who is honest, helpful, and without hang-ups. Don't miss Elise's blog: "Gladiator's Pen"

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