This comes from the quite-talented Blondeusk of http://blondwritemore.com
And it hits a little too close to home, as I wander between her version of the Bloggers Market, Social Media Square, and Procrastination Boulevard (which I’m pretty sure connects the two on any map).
Enjoy and give her a follow if you like what you read, because she’s always posting humorous and creative things like this.
For today’s post I have imagined that there is a place called Writing Town. It is where we all hang out on a daily basis. For noting – this week I have had a stinking cold (bedridden) and this post was written whilst I had a temperature / on heavy duty cold medication – […]
It’s every creator’s not-so-hidden fear. Someone is going to see, hear, or read their work and walk away saying, “It sucked. I hated it.”
Many of us struggle to put our precious babies out there to an audience, because we fear the reception they’ll receive.
That’s part of why critiques are so important. They’re not just a corrective measure to help identify flaws and strengths in a work. They’re also about building confidence…
So long as everyone agrees to provide constructive criticism.
It’s great to hear good things about one’s efforts. For me, there’s nothing quite so delightful as seeing how others receive something creative of mine, whether a song or drawing or piece of writing. Critique groups can help point out the good stuff in our writing. “Sad scene, but well written.” “I thought that was a nice touch that communicated that character’s voice well.” “That’s a strong, descriptive verb. Good choice!”
Now I have to be clear: Constructive criticism is not warm fuzzy accolades and blowing smoke to make someone feel good. “Oh it’s so delightful, I love the way you came up with sentence structures no one has ever used before! I really felt like I knew your cardboard cutout supporting characters by the way they had no redeemable virtues! You don’t even need to build a believable conflict into your story. It’ll be published for sure!”
Even though a critique group often includes friends, we don’t gather to puff each other up and gloss over weaknesses.
Constructive means we’re building something, and many building projects start by tearing down what presently stands in a given place. So it might feel painful to see all one’s flaws exposed and highlighted, but a good critique does just that…
In order to build on the strengths that remain once the flaws are removed.
In the military, we have an unwritten rule that certainly applies elsewhere. “Don’t just tell me the problem. Come with a solution.” Constructive critiques are like that.
“I didn’t like this part” gives the writer an indication of where to look for a problem, but it doesn’t capture what the problem actually is. “The grammar here is wrong. ‘The display of colors capture my attention.’ should read ‘the display of colors captures’ because it’s the display we’re talking about.”
“I didn’t like the way this solution presented itself in the story because it felt too much like a deus ex machina – in swoops the hero who happens to have just the device needed to stop the villain and save the damsel in distress with 3 seconds left on the timer of the bomb.” The next part is the most important. “Could you try… (potential fix) instead?”
A constructive critique doesn’t just point out flaws and present fixes for each error. The goal is to make the writer stronger, more skillful. So why not present an explanation that helps them identify similar problems elsewhere in their work?
I mentioned I joined Scribophile recently. It’s an online critique community where you earn points to post your own works by giving constructive critique to others. I’ve got a chapter up for critique, and I got thoughtful feedback from one of my followers on the site.
Take a look at some of these examples:
“I think this disrupts the flow here, I’d try to integrate it with the above” – along with a suggested cut of a clunky phrase and a reworded sentence to include the important elements.
“I would keep with the slow soothing dialogue, rather than the command. It seems a bit out of character.”
“How does this growing power make Lyllithe feel internally? Is her head buzzing? Or does she start to feel exceptionally warm? Perhaps more and more confidence is welling up as the doubts recede?”
“Hmmm, I find this draws me away from Lyllithe too much, and right now I am fully invested in her.”
“Since you used ‘focused’ in the sentence, there’s no need to say ‘attention.'”
Problem, explanation, solution.
This gives me feedback I can build on.
If you’re stopping by for the A to Z Blog Challenge, thanks! Tomorrow I’ll be looking at Dialogue. Maybe I’ll have something constructive to say.
Here’s a short question and thought for my writer friends and readers out there…
On one hand you have experts saying, “Write, write, write. Write 500 words a day. Forget writer’s block, just put pen to paper and write something, even if you know it’s rubbish.”
On the other hand, you have a sort of Pauline approach that says write only what is genuine, what is truly moving to you. “I would rather write 4 or 5 words of meaning and truth than 10,000 words that don’t matter to the reader.” (my paraphrase from Corinthians)
Which side of this do you fall on in theory, and in practice (if there’s a difference)?
The home of David M. Williamson, writer of fantasy, sci-fi, short stories, and cultural rants.