Thursday, November 12, 2009

Dude, Your Baby is UG-LY!

Okay, so no one would ever really say that. Would they?

This post isn’t really about babies. Not the real kind, anyway. On Monday, I expressed my love for critiques. But where there is the receiving of critiques, there must also be the giving, right?

Don’t get me wrong. I love giving a critique almost as much as I love getting one. Critiquing the writing of others is awesome for recognizing things you do wrong in your own writing, because a lot of us make the same mistakes. It also helps us look at our own work with a more critical eye. BUT… when it comes to hitting the send button on the email, I always think, “Oh no. What if this makes her hate me?” Especially if it’s a particularly thorough critique, where there’s lots of red on the screen. It kind of feels like I’m sending them an email saying:

“Dude, your baby is UG-LY! But here’s how I (self-proclaimed baby beauty expert) think you can make her prettier.”

How do you feel about critiquing others’ work? Do you worry they’ll take offense? Or do you just figure one good shredding deserves another, and they should just suck it up?


  1. LOL I used to worry much more than I do now. But in general, I try to phrase my suggestions and corrections nicely and I've gotten to the point that I figure if someone asks me for my opinion, they should be prepared to get it :D Suck it up baby!! LOL

    In all seriousness though, for me at least, it's not what people say about my stuff, it's how they say it. You can say "Okay lady, this sucks big time. Don't even bother rewriting, just burn the thing." Or, you can say "This section could use a little work, this is what I think might work well."

    It's all in how you say it. You can be thorough and honest without being brutal and cruel.

  2. I'm pretty brutal. But that's because all my critique partners are extremely talented and I am pretty they know it and they know I know it. So, I feel I can be totally honest and not worry about sugar-coating all my comments. (Of course when I occasionally critique someone I don't know that well, I am much more careful to emphasize the positive.)

  3. I suppose it depends on what relationship I have with the writer. The closer we are, the more likely I'm going to tell them exactly how I feel.

    But it's not like I'm going to send it back to them with a match, or anything. Though I sometimes wish someone would do that to me. ;)

  4. Michelle: I agree. How you phrase it makes all the difference. Good point!

    Corey: I'm always more nervous with a new crit buddy too.

    Tere: Hahahaha! You crack me up. Is that why you wanted my address? I'll be waiting for my hint in the mail. ;) And no one will be sending you any matches. You're awesome! Though, maybe we need a pencil made out of matches? For those bad days? ;)

  5. LOL!! I always worry they'll get upset with me. If I could, I'd send cookies along with the critique every time.

  6. Oh, I always worry. My problem is that I think my teacher persona comes out and I find myself telling them things that will (IMHO) improve the writing, not just in the stuff I read, but overall. And I think that makes some people, uh, upset. As if I'm saying that not only is this baby ugly, but every child you've ever, um, written.

  7. The first time I critiqued someone, I felt that way, but as I've grown closer to my beta readears, I've found that we have a mutual respect for each other, regardless of the critique. It makes it much easier to be honest.

  8. It depends on who I'm critiquing. I have a few writer friends who I know except criticism and can take big things and the nit picky stuff too. I don't hesitate because they know I want the same in return. But then I have one friend in particular...I definitely hold back on critique. She gets very defensive when anyone tries to give her helpful criticism. So with her, I use the "if you have nothing nice to say..." mantra. Granted I don't praise her if it's not warranted, but I hold my tongue on the bad stuff cause she just does not want to hear it. And if she doesn't want to hear it, there's no point in me saying it.

  9. I do worry that I'll hurt someone's feelings but I want the truth when someone critiques my work and I assume others feel the same otherwise, what's the point. So I try to be honest in a nice way.

  10. I try to phrase things in a postive way. I know I would hate for someone to be nasty to me when giving a critique, so I try to remember that. But I've been lucky so far. The ladies in my group are all very talented.

  11. Haha, I worry about it constantly. I've gotten some pretty awful critiques and it does hurt. I think it's all in the execution of the "advice." As a lot of people have already said. :D

  12. I never 'shred' when I critique. I think most people's writing has something positive you can say about it and when I offer suggestions I make sure that that is what they are. Not THE only right way to fix what ever problem I think need fixing. Often I think writers do better when you just point out what you see that might be a problem and then leave them to think ho wit can be fixed. sometimes the problem is just that we get too close to our own work to see what is wrong with it- not that we can't write :)

  13. We're still learning how to be good critters. I think it's an acquired skill. We still struggle with delivery bad news, but we've learned to be more honest.

  14. I think its important to know your audience, and know what they want. Not that you are always going to say what they want to hear, but that you are coming into it with an understanding of your role in regards to the critique, and in addition I try to sandwich criticism with positives as well.

  15. I think it's easier when you only "know" the person through the Internet...I still wouldn't be MEAN or anything, but I think I can be more honest with Internet friends than friends at home.

  16. Critique is invaluable as long as it is constructive

  17. My critique group meets in person so I never thought about how scary it must be to send a critique via email.

    I enjoy editing my critique partners and being edited by them. You're right--we totally learn about our own writing by editing someone else's work.

  18. I'm always worried how they'll take it. I don't get upset if they give it to me straight, but I sense they don't always appreciate it the same way. I always feel like I'm apologizing. But that's okay. As long as they're brutally honest about mine, that's what's really important. And if they want to ignore all my comments, that's fine too. ;-)

  19. I felt exactly that way the other day. But I figure most people probably look at critiques like I do. It's like a shot- the initial sting hurts like heck, but the long term benefits are worth it.

  20. I do worry about hurting people's feelings and that's why I always let my crits sit for a day before re-reading and then sending. There are ways you can word suggestions that sound snarky or kindly helpful and I want to make sure I'm sounding kind when I'm offering my brutally honest opinion. If that's even possible.

  21. I always worried about this when I'm critting work for someone new (my crit group is already used to me, so there are no surprises.)

    I have had that hitting send button moment because I'm definitely a detailed critter. I try to frame things in a positive way...maybe you should consider this, you might want to do such and such, but still I worry when I'm sending a first chapter back with like 70 comments in the margins, lol.

    Luckily, everyone has been cool and appreciative so far.

  22. Natalie: Good idea! Just have to figure how to get them into the email...

    Elana: Hahahaha!

    Susan: I worry less with those I've been working with for a while. It's the new ones that make me the most nervous. :)

    Stephanie: Good point. Everybody's different, though I don't understand the purpose of getting a critique if it's not to find areas that could use improvement.

    Jane: I prefer an honest critique as well.

    Melane: Good crit buddies make all the difference on both sides.

    BJ: The execution definitely makes a difference.

    Tabitha: Good point. It is so hard to be objective about our own work.

    LiLa: I agree. I'm definitely more honest than I was on my first few critiques. I think a lot of it is just a matter of confidence.

    Jen: It makes a huge difference knowing what the other person is hoping to get out of a critique.

    Anita: Me too. Same goes for receiving critiques. Then you don't have to worry about putting on a happy face, so your critiquers don't feel bad.

    Kitty: Constructive is key. I agree. I rhymed. :)

    Dawn: I think the opposite is true for me. I would have a harder time with in person, I think. But a live crit would be fun. :)

    Stina: That's how I feel too. It's all just opinion.

    Stephanie Thornton: I like that comparison. That's exactly how I feel. :)

    MG: How you word it does make a difference, but some people just can't handle the criticism, regardless.

    Roni: It's definitely easier with established crit buddies. And the phrasing does make all the difference. :)