I gained some useful advice, but also some that I had to take with a grain of salt. Anytime you submit a piece for criticism, you'll have to have a thick skin for some of the remarks, but it's also vital to remain open to what others have to say. While it's always nice to receive glowing feedback from our friends and peers, it's wise to give your work to unbiased readers. This won't include your mom, sister, brother, favorite uncle. The critics need to have a basic understanding and appreciation of writing as a craft. They can be prolific readers, but it's almost always better to show your work to other writers.
I think that people who critique others need to keep in mind these points:
- The author is probably very proud of her work, so don't trash it. Is there anything good you can find in the piece? Anything? If so, say something positive about it.
- Do nitpick on spelling. We're writers after all; our spelling should be excellent.
- Really read it, not skim over it. You can't do an honest and fair critique if you don't fully consider the work.
- This is only someone else's opinion. You don't have to agree with it, but see if there's anything you can take from it to make your work better.
- You can't be ultra sensitive to criticism. Everyone isn't going to love everything you write. Tom Clancy is a best-selling author and just about any book he writes is going to do well, but there are people in the world who don't love Tom Clancy. I doubt he's really bothered by that.
- You're brave for submitting. Because writing tends to be so personal, it's not merely pieces of paper we send out to be reviewed; it can sometimes feel like pieces of ourselves, our "babies." If you can overcome the fear of allowing others to look at and judge your baby, you've taken a step that many others haven't.