Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Criticism and Candy by Marie Wells Coutu


Criticism is like M&M candy in reverse.

I don’t think I know anyone who doesn’t like M&Ms. But I have one friend who prefers the red ones, and a relative who will eat any color—except the brown ones.

I used to work with a man who would bring M&Ms to meetings at work. He would take a handful and line them up in front of him by color, eating all of one color before starting on the next color. But since he shared the bag with the rest of the group, we enjoyed watching him organize his own stash.

As writers, we need to treat criticism like M&Ms. What’s that? We should eat the words from someone else?

Not exactly. But we do need to be selective in how we take in the criticism.

Like the brown M&Ms, what one reader, or judge, or agent/editor hates, someone else may love. It can get confusing when our critique group tells us to do things one way and a publisher seems to prefer a different technique.

One of my friends recently received low scores on her unpublished manuscript from judges of one writing contest, then ranked as a finalist with the very same manuscript in a different contest. It could have been differences in the contest or simply subjective preferences of the judges. A work-in-progress I entered in a different contest finalled, garnering raves from the three initial judges, but the final judge didn’t care for the story.

And that’s okay. I told my friend—and myself—to take the criticisms with a grain of salt. Because reading is subjective. Some people will love your writing and others will hate it—or at least, not care for it. So if the critiquer offers constructive criticism, listen to it and then decide for yourself which of the comments fit for your particular story. Pick and choose the “colors” of the criticism that is important to you.

As for the positive comments, those might be your red M&Ms. Be encouraged by them, enjoy them, but don’t overdose on them. As a writer, you can always improve but you need those encouraging words to keep you going. (Of course, if your mother is the only one who likes your writing, you might need to do some serious thinking about your calling!)

Consider the source, learn from the criticism but don’t stress out over it, and be encouraged by those who like your work.


"How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!" Psalm 119:103

Meanwhile, take a handful of M&Ms. Peanut or plain?

About the Author
The Secret Heart
by Marie Wells Coutu
Marie Wells Coutu’s new novel, The Secret Heart, will be released in late August from Write Integrity Press. Follow Marie on Amazon.com to be notified when it becomes available. The Secret Heart is the third book in the Mended Vessels series. Books in the series are contemporary re-imaginings of the stories of biblical women, including Esther and the woman at the well.

Her debut novel, For Such a Moment, won the Books of Hope Contest. Thirsting for More, the second book in the series, was a finalist in the 2016 Selah Awards Contest. You can find more about Marie and her novels on her Facebook page (Author Marie Wells Coutu), at her website (MarieWellsCoutu.com), or follow her on Twitter (@mwcoutu).

Marie retired after 15 years with the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, and she and her husband now divide their time between Florida and Iowa.

The Secret Heart


Beautiful Shawna Moore married Hunter Wilson, the governor of Tennessee, after a whirlwind romance, only six weeks following her first husband’s death in Iraq. Now, she wonders if the governor loved her at all or only hoped to avoid a scandal.


An investigative reporter—and friend of Shawna’s—is asking questions. If he discovers the truth about Shawna’s baby, Hunter’s chances for reelection could be ruined. But keeping the secret is destroying their marriage. Will Shawna convince Hunter to choose his family and drop out of politics, or will he continue to put his career first?


The Secret Heart, will be released in late August from Write Integrity Press.


1 comment:

  1. Fun article, Marie! Constructive criticism is important if we're to improve. But I also agree with you that we have to be true to ourselves and weigh it out - especially when we get conflicting feedback!

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