Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Things I Have Learned...

I think I'll make this a semi-regular theme. Straight to you from the fount of useless knowledge that is Mysti.

Recently, I've been seeing some really negative posts here and there when someone has been unhappy with a critique or a review. I understand their pain. I really do. I've had my share of "This is total crap," comments too. Even less nasty things sting. Still does. It pricks my spirit to think that I didn't convey what I so desperately wanted to convey to a particular reader or critiquer.

But, what I've learned (and am still learning), is that at least they took the time to read what I wrote! That's huge--really. They could easily just overlook it and go about their day to find something more suitable to their tastes. Instead, they sat down and took the time to read and offer feedback or a review. I'm learning to be immensely grateful for just that.

About the feedback--sometimes it's not all rosy, and if I'm getting something critiqued, then, I really hope it isn't, because NO story is 100% perfect. I need to see where I've veered off the wrong path, no matter how small in terms of grammar or plot. What I'm learning to look for is consistencies. If five people point out that X doesn't work for them, then I probably should change that. Ultimately, it's up to me, the author to accept or reject the advice, BUT I have to first be grateful to have received it.

First thing to do when you get a negative critique or review? Just say "Thank you." The person has taken the time to read your work and offer feedback. If it's stung, stop right there before you bash their efforts. A simple "Thank you" is good enough. Take a few days, calm down a bit. If you still feel the need, privately message the person to ask exactly what didn't work and what they would suggest to change. And then say "Thank you" again.

It's how we grow. We write, we fail, we edit, we fail again, we edit again, and before long, we finally start to get more positive remarks than negative ones. It's just like any other craft. We get what we give, so if we're serious about writing, then by golly, stay on the ride and hang on tight!

Now get to writing!


  1. "Thank you" is indeed the best way. I always wanted to know why someone didn't like this or that or the whole chapter they've just read. When I get the reason it makes it feel a bit better, but when I don't it sadden me. However a feedback IS a feedback, plus it's FREE. You can't go wrong with that. :)
    Great post. :)

  2. I absolutely agree with you, Mysti. Free feedback is a gift and even if some of the comments might seem negative, they're really constructive criticism!

  3. I agree with you. I've had a lot of experience with critique groups. But I'm new to reviews. I've only had one bad one, and it hurt. Two days later he emailed me to apologize and I couldn't figure out why. It was so tempting to say, why? Why the negative review? Why did you trash me so bad? Are you an idiot? But instead I just said, thank you, or something similar.
    N. R. Williams, The Treasures of Carmelidrium

  4. I, too, agree. One critique I have gotten, and I use this example frequently, referred to my MC as "a contemptible woman" and that she had no redeeming qualities (note the critiquer was also female). If I can take that feedback and actually consider it a good thing, I figure I can take just about anything.

    On the other hand, I have gotten one "revenge crit". I did a crit for someone who asked very specific questions at the end. I answered them honestly. He apparently was offended, because the crit reply had nothing in it, and he came back and shredded my story. He found fault with things that were not relevant to anything else, and was completely inconsistent with any other feedback.

    I sent him a thank you, and made sure I unchecked his crit when I printed the rest out.



  5. I was just reviewing this scripture with one of my kids last night before his 4-H speech when we had to give him some feedback. "With the advice of many counselors, your plans will succeed." He threw such a fit he was hyperventilating and about to throw up. Think how far you've come! LOL

  6. Ha, Maggie! I still hyperventilate and throw up, but I do it privately... then say thank you ;)

  7. Yep, negative crits sting. I'm still working on that thick skin. If I receive two critiques, one postive and one negative, guess which one I can't stop thinking about. The negative one! Argh! But you're right, Mysti, it's how we grow.

  8. I know I've posted in the past about how difficult it can be to handle critiques, and how to sift the good advice from the not-so-useful, but to complain about receiving bad ones? That's just ... not sure what to say, to be honest.

    It's understandable, up to a point. You hear something you didn't want to, and it hurts. But to complain about it suggests a profound lack of understanding of what critiquing is all about. If you want to hear unstinting praise, let your mother read it. If you want to knock it into publishable condition, well, let the shredding begin!

  9. P.S. You hit a crucial point in your post, Mysti. Ultimately it's up to the author to accept or reject the advice. That is so important to remember.

  10. Thanks Botanist :) It takes a long while just to learn how to apply the critiques to make your story work. But that's another post!

  11. There is one exception regarding highly critical remarks Mysti, I know because in my innocence I dived in with the best of intentions to promote my scifi novel.

    A major online bookseller has a forum that should be avoided at all costs. It is inhabited by people who have never ever read the books they spew their vitriol over.

    Not only was the book attacked, but they also rudely attacked me and my editor as well. I refer to Amazon.

    Thankfully the people who have actually read my novel have offered constructive criticism like your good self. :)

  12. A really good post, Mysti, raising some excellent points. Critique groups are one thing and we know what's expected there, but I do bristle sometimes when an unsolicited crit turns up in a comment (even if they make a good point!).... a bitten tongue and a 'thank you' is required!

  13. I think what A1K2 is referring to is when a critique is not a critique. When it is an attack, or a twisted form of self-aggrandizement.

    Unfortunately this is most common in forums that are public-free - you get the lowest common denominator.

    While I am here - when I review books I always state what I see as positive and I will also always describe what needs improving. I am honest. I also make sure that I choose my words for accuracy and also so that it cannot be misconstrued as vitriolic, or the like.

    When I get similar treatment, I always thank them, if I can.


  14. Gerry's right. Things like what Jack experienced are a case of bullying, no better than the bullies in middle school that single out a kid for no reason. And that shouldn't happen to anyone.

    Unfortunately, that's the risk we take as writers whenever we put anything out there in the public world.

    I was mostly referring to people who receive actual critiques or reviews from people who've taken the time to read their work. For example, one blogger I saw last week bashed a reviewer, ending up in HUNDREDS of comments that bashed her right back.

    And yesterday, I read a post ranting about a critique from a critique group that the writer didn't like. I think people just need to be more tactful with things like that, and not rant and rave about it publicly.


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