Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Critiques And Reviews Are Not All Sunshine And Rainbows

Writers are really interesting when it comes to critiques and reviews. We hear them go on and on about how they want feedback for their stories, but when they get the feedback, what we really see is that they only wanted someone to give them comments of all the things they did well and don't you dare say anything negative. When it comes to reviews, they immediately discount the negative reviews as being written by someone who was "a complete idiot" and rave about the positive reviews acknowledging the amazing genius of the reviewer.

I did a critique of a partial for a writer several months ago. This project was in really bad shape. I am assuming that this was really a first draft (or at least I hope it was). In any case,  I really worked over the manuscript highlighting all of the issues that needed to be fixed. In reality, the bigger priority was to deal with the major issues and not focus in on small things such as "It was good to see you had the point of views consistent." The comments were something that most editors would have given to revisions "if they saw potential in the project".

The result??? The author was upset. Because it was all about things that had to be fixed and not about the things that were good. Yes, were there things that were OK (please not the word...I did not say good or amazing), but token compliments are not going to make this author's writing better.

Authors are always saying they want the truth about their projects. In reality, I am starting to see that people really don't want to hear it. Yes, it hurts if things are not going the way you planned, but if someone doesn't point those things out to you, I can promise you, there will be NO improvements. Think of Col. Nathan Jessup (we can always count on Jack for these lines) from A FEW GOOD MEN...

The deal is that critiques and reviews do provide, at some level, "the truth". This is what someone saw in your writing. Just because the person doesn't think the way you do, does not mean they are wrong. It is a perspective that you need to consider.

When we provide critiques, there are going to be times when the story, synopsis or query letter is not quite right. To make improvements, we need to know what we did wrong. We cannot be expected to improve if all we get are comments such as "I really liked that phrasing." In the end, if the phrasing in part of the manuscript is good, but the rest of the project is really in need of improvement, writers have to hear the bad stuff. 

In many ways, this is really a huge issue many critique groups have. Because they are all friends outside of the critique group, the comments on projects are often tamed down a lot. The true quality of the project is not always discussed for fear of hurting the feelings of the other writer.

Being a writer is tough. To be successful takes amazingly tough skin. If this is something you don't have and you are amazingly sensitive to anything less than a glowing review of everything you do, then this might not be the business for you.

I don't want you to walk away from this thinking one person's view is correct. But please understand that sometimes, the comments you get on a book are not going to be good. I don't care how much hard work you put into it, the story might simply SUCK!

So deal with it.
Learn from it.
Fix it.
...and move on.

But do not spend the time complaining that someone hated you. Remember that you ASKED that person to look at your work. "Do you want the truth??" Can  you "handle the truth??"

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