Monday, January 7, 2013

You Want to Be Critiqued? Are you Sure? by James L. Rubart

James L. Rubart
Critiques (or book reviews, or edits) can get us down, can't they, even when the critiquer, reviewer, or editor is trying to be constructive. Hey everyone, Annette here. We can easily brush off an invalid comment. But if there's any validity, we sometimes get discouraged, as if we don't have the means to address our own weaknesses (i.e. can't go learn something new). But, of course we can! There's hope! Jim Rubart is here today to share on being critiqued. See if you can relate.

Want to be Critiqued? Are you sure?

Back in ’96 I performed around the Seattle area as a semi-pro magician. A fellow prestidigitator and I developed an act we called The Dueling Magicians. The song Dueling Banjos played as we swapped tricks back and forth—each one more grand than the other—all ending in a bullet catch played for laughs. Then we did another twenty minutes of comedy magic.

One of our biggest shows was at the Everett Civic Theatre. The place was packed and the crowd roared with enthusiasm with every joke we lobbed their way and every trick we performed. Afterwards people raved about the show, and kids asked for our autographs.

We felt like stars.

Give Me Some Feedback

The Monday after the show I asked my marketing business partner what he thought and what Jerry and I could do to get even better.

“The show was good for the most part, but your blocking needs work. You stepped in front of each other a couple of times where it distracted. And you had too much downtime when you brought one of the audience members up on stage. You should have music going during that time. And I’d pick up the overall pace a bit and cut the show by probably ten minutes. Always leave the audience wanting more, you know?”

I flopped back in my chair, undoubtedly with a stunned look on my face. His criticism stung. Deep.

What I realized long afterwards is I didn’t want what I’d asked for (a critique). I wanted him to tell me how good Jerry and I were. How the crowd loved us, how funny we were and how some talent scout would soon discover us and take us to the big time.

I was still insecure enough about the show that I needed encouragement and people to believe in us. I wanted my business partner to say something along the lines of, “You were great! I loved it, keep at it! You two can do it!”

You See Where I’m Going With This, Don’t You?

When you ask someone to critique your writing, are you asking them for encouragement or critique? Or a little of both? Do you know? Have you been burned and discouraged in the past when you’ve asked?

I still remember when I started writing my first novel, and how my skin was tissue-paper thin. How easily I could have shut down my laptop forever and given up my dream of being an author with a harsh critique. (I did quit for a time because of a brutal critique in early ’06, but my wife wouldn’t let me give up.)

So when you’re asking someone for a critique—whether you’re just starting or have been writing for years—know what you’re really asking for and tell them.

And if you’re the one critiquing, read between the lines and try to discern what they need to hear.

Now, do you mind picking a card, any card? I think you’ll really like the show. But do you mind keeping what you think to yourself?

James L. Rubart is the best-selling and award-winning author of ROOMS, BOOK OF DAYS, THE CHAIR, and his just released, SOUL’S GATE. During the day he runs Barefoot Marketing which helps businesses and authors make more coin of the realm. In his free time he dirt bikes, hikes, golfs, takes photos, and occasionally does sleight of hand. No, he doesn’t sleep much. He lives with his amazing wife and teenage sons in the Pacific Northwest and still thinks he’s young enough to water ski like a madman. More at www.jameslrubart.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/James-L-Rubart/320882261326243

Blog: http://3menwalkintoablog.com/

Twitter: @jimrubart

Soul's Gate released November 6, 2012.

“Every now and then we get a break from reality. A glimpse into the other world that is more real than the reality we live in 99 percent of our days. The Bible is about a world of demons and angels and great evil and even greater glory.”

What if you could travel inside another person’s soul? To battle for them. To be part of Jesus healing their deepest wounds. To help set them free to step boldly into their divinely designed future.
Thirty years ago that’s exactly what Reece Roth did. Until tragedy shattered his life and ripped away his future.
Soul's Gate

Now God has drawn Reece out of the shadows to fulfill a prophecy spoken over him three decades ago. A prophecy about four warriors with the potential to change the world . . . if Reece will face his deepest regret and teach them what he has learned.

They gather at a secluded and mysterious ranch deep in the mountains of Colorado, where they will learn to see the spiritual world around them with stunning clarity—and how to step into the supernatural.

Their training is only the beginning. The four have a destiny to pursue a freedom even Reece doesn’t fully fathom. But they have an enemy hell-bent on destroying them and he’ll stop at nothing to keep them from their quest for true freedom and the coming battle of souls.


(print version)  (e-book edition; sale $3.49!)


3 comments:

  1. I had a wise, elderly neighbor who, when asked for his opinion, always prefaced it with, "Do you really want my opinion, or do you want me to agree with yours?" Usually, I just wanted him to agree with mine.

    Even though I've been writing for years (and years and years -- you get the picture), there are times that I still have to put down the critique for a few days and let the sting wear off before I start making changes. I guess the gist of successful critiquing is to "critique as you would have them critique you."

    Thanks for the post. I would have loved to have seen the act. Maybe you can do it at ACFW sometime?

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  2. Thanks for sharing this post, Jim!

    As a writer, one thing I needed to develop was a tough skin. Anyone overly sensitive and defensive will have a difficult time in this business. I'm so thankful for critique partners who I can trust to tell me the truth, but also do it out of love and a genuine interest in helping me reach my potential.

    Angie, love your neighbor's prefacing statement! LOL

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  3. This is so true, Jim. A newish writer shared how devastated she was by a harsh critique at another group she was at earlier in the week.

    She's not new to being critiqued so it wasn't that. It was the harshness of the criticism: "This is lazy writing and your characters are too shallow."

    We critiqued the same piece in our group, and afterward she shared this woman's remarks. I had to admit that although unkind and unhelpful, the critiquer was correct. The writer needs to learn to show instead of tell ("lazy writing") and we gave her some concrete examples of how to do that, especially with emotions. And she needed to add more layers to her characters (which will make them not seem shallow). All that to say, the difference between being helpful and downright demoralizing as a critiquer is often in taking the time to answer "Why?" do we think this.

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