Critiques, The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

Critique—just the word can make me break out in hives. Don’t
get me wrong, I really like to get feedback on my writing, as long as it’s
positive. But there’s the rub, nothing but positive critique doesn’t help me
grow as a writer. Now, I’m not one of those who believe positive feedback is
worthless. I like to know what I’m doing well, so I can do more of it. But, I
also want to know where I need improvement.
You might say I’m a glutton for punishment. I regularly
enter pieces in contests. I’m a member of a monthly critique group and a member
of an intensive, weekly critique group. And that doesn’t count all the
rejection letters I have in my files from articles and manuscripts that haven’t
made the grade. I’ve definitely had my fair share of painful critiques. But
this post isn’t an invitation to a pity party. I just want to share some of my
coping techniques when it seems like no one can say anything good about what
I’ve written.
  • Take it in, then let it sit – I have to have time to process
    negative comments. (I don’t seem to need the same time to process the positive
    ones—go figure). I usually go back and reread the negative comments 48 hours
    later and that gives me the perspective to know what I need to do to improve.
  • Realize you’re in control – ultimately it’s your story and
    you can decide what works and what doesn’t. Just because a critique partner
    says it doesn’t work, doesn’t mean she’s right. You get to make the call.
  • Seek out a second opinion – sometimes I don’t know if a
    comment is truly valid or not. When that happens, I ask several people I
    respect for their opinion. If one person stumbles over a sentence, it’s not a
    big deal. But if half the people you show it to stumble you probably need to do
  • Be polite – generally, someone who takes the time to
    critique your work wants you to succeed. It helps make the negative comments
    easier to take if you remind yourself of that. Occasionally you’ll run across
    someone who rips your manuscript to shreds just to prove how smart they are. It
    happens to all of us and we just have to consider the source of the critique
    and move on.
So don’t be afraid to show others your work. Ultimately, no
matter how painful, it will improve your writing. I’ve had hundreds of articles
published through the years, and I can assure you that all those painful critiques are a
large part of my success.
Now it’s your turn. What tips do you have for processing a
negative critique?

Edie Melson is a freelance writer and editor with years of experience in the publishing industry. She’s a prolific writer, and has a popular writing blog, The Write Conversation. She’s the co-director of the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference, as well as a popular faculty member at numerous others. She’s also the Social Media Coach at My Book Therapy.