Thursday, February 15, 2018

Growing as a Writer Through Critiques by Sherrinda Ketchersid

We have all been there as writers – the place where our work has been marked through with a red pen, shredded, chewed, and thrown out as worthless. Whether it be in contest scores, a writer’s group, or a critique partner, we have experienced the pain of a hurtful critique.

Last year I changed direction from writing historical and attempted to write a YA story. I entered a writing contest and when I received scores back from the judges, I was devastated. Comments like “This does not sound like YA.” and “From a YA perspective, it’s not believable.” really hurt my heart. Out of all the contestants, I ranked next to last. Ouch!

So what is a writer to do? Besides stuffing my mouth with chocolate, I gave the feedback some time to sit, then reevaluated the critiques. You know what? What the judges said was true. My writing was not YA material. I could see their point and was able to embrace their words for what it was…truth.

Things to consider when receiving critiques:
  • You want to grow as a writer, so have an open mind. What things can you learn from the suggestions given?
  • Has more than one critique pointed out the same problems? If so, consider this a confirmation you need to fix the issue.
  • Ask questions and get clarification if you are confused by the critique.
  • Remember that writing and reading is subjective. Ultimately, you can choose not to make changes to your story.
Those who critique other people’s work need to learn the best way to offer feedback. I am part of two different critique groups. One group is online and the other is a group that meets together twice a month to read their work aloud for critique. These groups have taught me invaluable lessons in giving construction critiques.

Things to consider when giving a critique:
  • Always start off with praise for the good things you find in the other person’s work. This sets the tone for critique and acts as a buffer for the criticism to come.
  • Don’t use harsh words. Be considerate and offer suggestions to correct the problem.
    • YES: Your dialogue is fantastic and I feel like I’m right there, but I’m pulled out of the scene with the dialogue tags. Instead of using “she yelled”, you could use an action beat that shows her anger.
    • NO: You use way too many dialogue tags.
  • If there is an issue with plot or scenes not moving forward, help the writer brainstorm ideas to bolster areas that need improvement.
  • While you want to be gentle in your critique, you do want to be honest. To give only praise to a new writer won’t make them a better writer. Give constructive criticism to help them improve.
Receiving criticism is not for the faint of heart, but if we want to grow as writers, we need to embrace each and every critique with an open mind. You have asked for feedback, so cull through the critique and learn ways to become a better writer. That is the end goal.

What about you? What have you learned from critiques? How have you grown as a writer from giving critiques? I would love to hear your experiences!

Sherrinda Ketchersid is a born and bred Texan, preacher’s wife, and mother to 4 children. With the children grown and out of the house, she weaves tales of fierce knights and their ladies in a time where men were warriors and women had to be strong enough to keep them in check.

After taking time off from writing, she has returned with a new motto in place to spur her on. “Writers write. Everyone else makes excuses.” Jack Bickham.  No excuses this time. She is weaving her love of romance with history to bring joy and the hope of love to those who may one day read her stories.
Personal blog: Sherrinda.com
Twitter: @sherrinda
Instagram: @sherrinda

 

16 comments:

  1. Sherrinda, I love this post! Great points. When I enter contests and get their feedback, I look at each one. Were all the judges consistent on some things? If not, I look at it individually and decide. Since they only see a limited word count of the whole story, reworking my story could make that part stronger. The feedback helps me see that.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It's so important to at least evaluate the feedback, good or bad. Sometimes I know I let emotions get in the way. Sounds like you already have it down pat! ;)

      Delete
  2. This is great Sherrinda! I am always torn between wanting the help and suggestions but dreading the criticism. The worst is when judges disagree or say completely opposite things. CPs are great friends to have. I can always count on them for just enough praise to tone down the criticism. Thanks for a fabulous post on this subject.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I feel your trepidation! I'm the same way with the mix of hope and dread. But all my critiquers are so gracious with their suggestions, it truly helps me grow as a writer! (((hugs)))

      Delete
  3. Sherrinda, i agree with your thoughts on growing as a writer through critiques....always valuable! And yes, in my experience, the comments can be difficult to absorb, but once I delve into the reasons for the comments, I can revise to make my words stronger. The positive remarks included in each received critique help to show me what I’m doing right., which is equally important. As you pointed out, when providing a critique, our suggestions need to be in a positive form to encourage one another. And remembering each reader will have a different perspective helps. Thank you for your post!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I love that you have been helped by good critiques. And your point about the readers having different perspectives is spot on. Thanks so much for stopping by! ;)

      Delete
  4. I think as writers, we need to have an attitude of wanting to learn, otherwise, we'll never get better at our craft. I'd rather be told something isn't working than receive lavish praise because someone is afraid to hurt my feelings.

    I've had the same two critique partners for over two years, so we've built a great deal of trust and feel free to speak our minds. But, it's still possible to hurt feelings, so we're careful to also include positive statements about what we like. Although we don't meet in person like we used to, because of schedules, etc., we still connect via email or Facebook Messenger when we need a little feedback on a blurb or scene we're struggling with. My critique partners have been a huge blessing, and my writing would not be near where it is without their help.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Typo! I've had the same critique partners for over TEN years - not two.

      Delete
    2. Oh my goodness! TEN years! That is amazing! I would be so blessed to have that kind of support and friendship. I imagine after 10 years, the trust level is high. You are so encouraging.

      Delete
  5. Hi Sherrinda!

    I tried to write a children's book once and got the same sort of comments, that my voice was better suited for adults. I think it's part of the process we go through as writers to find our genre.

    Thank you for sharing today.

    ~ Yvonne

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think the whole idea of voice is intriguing. I hope my voice finds strength at some point. I think I need a few more books under my belt before I really "find" it. ;)

      Delete
  6. Hi Sherrinda! Thanks for being on Seriously Write today. Great post. Over the years my skin has toughened up a bit. Still, I find it best to read the critique, let it sit a day or, and then come back to it.

    Great advice about peppering in some praise along with the criticism. Makes it a much easier pill to swallow!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Terri, thank you so much for having me! I have thoroughly enjoyed being here.

      Delete
  7. Great post, Sherrinda! The critiques I've had over the years have been (for the most part, LOL) very helpful. I agree that adding in praise along with the criticism helps us handle the comments that sting. Thanks so much for sharing this (and sorry I'm so late in the day stopping by---been on the go!). Hugs, Patti Jo

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You are never too late, girl! Thanks so much for your thoughts. I think encouraging someone on this journey is so important and if you can ease the critique with encouragement, well, it is like gold. (((hugs)))

      Delete
  8. Hi Sherrinda, thanks for the great post. I think praising the positive helps take the sting out of a negative comment. I know it's hard to say something negative. I never want to hurt somebody's feelings because I know our stories are our babies.

    ReplyDelete

We'd love to hear your thoughts! Please leave comments. We'll moderate and post them!