Thursday, July 3, 2014

Baby Evil Writers 101::Critiques

Baby Writers 101: Critiques
Julie Butcher

You can write until the cows come home but you won’t get professionally published without critique partners. There I said it. Lately it has come to my attention that there are a lot of people who claim to want to be professional and yet will not put their writing out there for comments. You guys have a lot of excuses not to have critique partners and editors and I’m going to debunk them one by one.

1.      I’m afraid that someone will steal my idea.

Seriously? You can give thirty writers the same premise and they’ll come up with thirty different stories. Not one of them will be your story. If this doesn’t give you peace of mind, the fact that your work has a copyright the very second you put your words on a document should settle you down. (Okay it does not have a copyright because it is in your head so there’s another reason to put your butt in the chair and write.)

There are no new stories. Every bit and piece has been written somewhere in time. You really need to chillax and get some constructive criticism of your work or you might as well quit right now and keep your secret storyline in your head. It will never be good enough because fresh eyes can see what you cannot. Your mind tricks you into believing that what is in your head is also on the page and that is a lie.

2.      This story is my baby and it will break my heart if people don’t love it. (whine-whine)

They won’t. At least not until you have the critiques and fix all of the plot holes and purple prose. Even then only a small percentage will love your work. Even New York Times bestselling authors have a limited supply of fans. Award winning doesn’t mean that every single person on the planet loves their stuff. Go and look. Even the huge names have horrible reviews. Get used to it because if you want to be a professional, you’ll have to suck it up and smile. The only people who are important are the ones who do love and support you.

Also unless you pulled that manuscript out of a private area of your body IT IS NOT A BABY. It is a manuscript, a story, a book. Get a grip people the pages are not sentient. Also the next time I hear someone say this I am going to smack them in the head because they are on my last nerve.

3.      Even if I get a critique I don’t trust that person. I can’t get rid of Character X, I just can’t!

Sometimes critiques are stupid. Sometimes they are downright mean. Sometimes they are worthless. But even a broken clock is right twice a day. If you have four beta readers and three of them hit a certain spot and go, “Oh, heck no!” then you should listen. Never limit yourself to one critique from other writers.  

Eventually you’ll find a group of other writers that get you, and you get their work, too. You might go through a hundred people to find four. Do not give up. There are knowledgeable people out there. You’ll find that although some writers are at a newer level than you, they still can point out plot holes and make valid points. In return, when you return the favor and critique for them, you get reminded not to make those newbie mistakes. I’ve learned more from critiquing for others than I ever would have on my own.

You absolutely must put yourself out there. Even if it feels like people are hating on you. When you get a critique back, and want to scream or yell or lash out via email, stop. Wait a day or two or three and think about it. Whoever read for you gave you their valuable time and experience. They gave up having dinner with their family or their favorite television shows. They gave up hugging their children to help you so don’t be a butthead.

Then thank them for helping you and go and fix your story.


  1. I hope this isn't because some whined about a crit you did for them. I mean, hell- you say you are going to tell them why their books sucks so it shouldn't be a surprise. I was in an open crit group at the library where people could just drop in for that meeting and bring stuff. It was a nightmare. So many just wanted us to say how much we loved it. One guy wrote the most horrifically bad book and refused to listen to our feedback. (told us women what it was like being raped) and then came back to show us he got his book published- aha! It was Publish America.

    1. I have luckily never critiqued professionally for anyone who who whined afterwards Rissa. But then people who pay for an edit expect to learn what needs fixing. :D

  2. Then there are the thoughtful, carefully crafted, time consuming crits given and in return? The couple sentence: 'that's nice.' Maybe its a Midwest thing, but my best crit group is 1000 miles away. (Yes, I' m a part time snow bird but I time visits around their meetings.) Even the exchanged 8 page samples are awesome.

    I'm a member if MWA and they have online Guppies chapter for crit groups and exchanges.

    Then there are the offers that come from out of the blue! (Thank you Mike G) I do prefer to share after the rough draft stage and personal revision stage though. Then the convo Is substantive and not line edits.

    Never understood the baby thing. I find them the least interested in honest crits and least likely to put elbow grease into the return crit.

    Also never understood the 'you'll steal it' thing.

    Even w a 'that's nice' reply, I never regret giving the detailed thought out crit. You learn more doing that than receiving, but now when I seek crits, it is usually when I really need the same back for deadlines.

    Great post Julie! And your fireworks were amazing!

    Not going to preview so sorry for errors. I'm on droid and list my first reply. LOL


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