Everyone has that one friend who is brutally honest and makes no apologies for it. In college my best friend was Mary Nell. She was the person I took shopping with me when I had to buy a new evening gown for a concert or recital performance. Sales ladies cringed when they saw her coming.
Me : "What about this one, Mary Nell?"
Saleslady : "Oh, that shade of brown sets off your lovely complexion."
Mary Nell : "Makes your a** look like two pigs scrambling for the last corn cob in a mud hole."
Saleslady : "Madam definitely makes a statement in this shade of red."
Me : "Really?" (Turns to admire self in three-way mirror.)
Mary Nell : "She makes a statement in it alright. Fifty bucks an hour or
one hundred bucks for the night."
I can't even begin to imagine what Mary Nell would say about this lovely wedding party. Probably something along the lines of "Friends don't let friends dress drunk." or "The only way I'd make my bridesmaids dress like that is if they'd all slept with my fiance."
Here is a great post by Nathan Bransford on editing (critiquing) someone's work.
I hope everyone takes the time to read it, because it gives some great guidelines for doing the job professionally, thoughtfully and most important - with an eye to truly helping the writer improve their work.
As writers, we say we want someone like my friend Mary Nell to critique our work. Someone who will be brutally honest. Yet sometimes we lose sight of that. I know I have. A good critique partner is worth their weight in gold. And if you have one who is willing to give you their honest opinion, no holds barred, even when it hurts, hang on to them. And learn how to take a critique ! That is what this post is about. Here are some of the things I have to tell myself when reading a critique. I am not always successful. I am still learning to be a BIG GIRL when it comes to my writing. How the people who critique my work put up with me, I will NEVER KNOW. So I tell myself with each critique :
Don't take it personally! It's about the work, not about you.
Don't explain. If you have to explain to your critique partner, you will have to explain to your reader. Will you be sitting there to explain when the reader reads your book? No? Then your critique partner is probably right.
Sometimes your critique partner is wrong or maybe only half right. Take what you can use and don't argue about the rest. A good critique partner knows it is your book and will do the same when you offer him or her suggestions.
Listen. Carefully. Don't react. Read the critique a couple of times. And realize this person gave your their time - time they could have been writing. This person gave you the consideration and value of their intellect - which they could have used on their own work. This person gave you the respect one gives a writer intelligent enough to accept constructive criticism. Try to be worthy of that respect.
How about you? Did you read Mr. Bransford's post? Did it resonate with you? What other advice can you add about how to take a critique with grace and intelligence and how to make use of a critique of your work?