The Grace and Humility of Critique
We’ve been talking about critique in this column the last few weeks. First we focused on the importance of critique and how it benefits the writer. Then we discussed different methods of critique and the benefits they provide, along with a general checklist on what to look for.
Today, however, we get to the heart of critique.
Most people either do this very badly or excel at it. I’m talking about accepting critique. It is a humbling experience that should be handled with gratitude and grace, especially if you want to continue receiving critique.
No, it’s not fun. Sometimes, it’s not even all that nice. Sometimes it’s filled with more criticism than positives, and sometimes an extra dose of grace is indeed needed. No matter what critique you receive (though we hope you’ll never experience the kind that tears you down and makes you stop writing or want to), there’s a right way and a wrong way to handle it.
- DO: say thank you. Even if you don’t agree, still thank the person for their input. Even if their comment is asinine, a thank you is still in order. After all, you don’t have to agree with what they said.
- DON’T: get all pissy and argumentative. If you really feel you must explain, do so with a smile. You’ll win more feedback and explanations that way than you will with negativity and lashing out. “
You are stupid. Did you even read it, because if you did, you’d clearly…Thank you for your input. I respectfully disagree.”
- DO: Acknowledge the critique, even if you are only accepting part of it. “Thank you for the suggestion, and while I don’t agree on switching the murder weapon, I really do like your idea to stalk him in the stairwell.”
- DON’T: Stress. Most of the time, especially if the critique is not the final draft, which it shouldn’t be. Beta readers, editors, and critique partners are separate beings. Critique comes before betas, who come before the final editor. Anyway, those suggestions you don’t agree with may have a streak of truth to them you may only want to make note of.
- DO: Acknowledge what the mass has to say. If 3 of 5 readers tell you to kill your darling, you should listen, but that odd man out? His weight only counts if it’s combined with the others or you agree with it.
- DON’T: be afraid to scream, yell, cry, and feel overwhelmed. Accepting critique is hard. You don’t need “lizard skin” to accept critique, but you should always remember the spirit it is given in.
Remember, if you ask for critique, you’re opening yourself up. This can go both ways, but you shouldn’t avoid it just because. No one is born with lizard skin but lizards, but everyone has the capacity for grace and gratitude. If you keep an open mind, you’ll find the critique doesn’t hurt quite so much. It will humble you as much as it will help you, and open your eyes to better writing in the long run.
And now it’s time to talk with a publisher…
Wendy asks Untold Press: “What do you do to help promote your authors?”
Jen Wylie answers: “We offer our authors a wide range of services as well as continuous advice on building and maintaining a social media presence. For each title we do a cover reveal, release blitz, and purchase a book tour (or in cases of a not first in series book, they may choose a tour or to put the 1st book on sale and we will pay for advertising). We often run sales (and pay for advertising) or work with an author if they wish for a sale to run. Authors also receive free promo graphics (for releases, sales, general promo, reviewers wanted, quote graphics etc) and any free banners for their media sites (twitter, fb page, etc) We will also produce graphics for bookmarks if the author wishes to purchase. We encourage our authors to share and promote each other, and to devote time to promote themselves. Authors, their reviews, etc are also promoted on our own media platforms, website, and newsletter. We are proud to work with our authors, not only to promote for them, but to teach them the most effective ways to promote themselves.”