To Critique or Not to Critique, That is the Question

Saturday, September 14, 2019
Is it just me or do some people critique like they have an ax in their hand?

I have realized one of the hardest aspects of writing is getting my work critiqued. Whether it's finding the right people to critique my work, reading people's feedback about my work, or the reaction of others when I critique their work, it's all a bit of a landmine sometimes. My ego gets stepped on meanwhile I accidentally step on the ego of others.

And recently I had two experiences through the critiquing process that I wanted to share you and maybe we'll learn something along the way together.

First, I'd like to share that I will occasionally submit my writing to be critiqued at the Zoetrope writing forum. It's been a fine experience overall. I mean, it's basically internet strangers reading my work and everyone has a different flair. Some people are better at critiquing than others (or at least, some are more willing to put in the effort). No matter what, I learn something valuable each time.

Recently, I decided to read over the feedback of a flash fiction piece that I had worked on months ago. As a result, I noticed feedback I didn't read closely. I was surprised at how much it helped me. Months ago when I read this feedback it felt cold and cutting. Now when I read it, I felt helpful and insightful.

I learned that receiving critiques about my writing isn't always easy. I also realize I don't always read the critiques properly. Sometimes the feedback and critiques feel mean. Except when I give myself time from this feedback I realize there is value even in the sharp-edged remarks.

And then another lesson happened. I submitted feedback for someone else's work. With Zoetrope there is a rating system (which I don't like). I gave this person 7/10. And I don't know about you but in the IMDB world, that is a great rating. Yet this person was offended. Like, deeply offended. And they explained how they didn't understand my rating. My feedback was positive so why didn't I give them a 10? Or a 9, even?

I explained to them that my ratings of 9 and 10 would go to a piece of writing that hits me in a profound way. 7 and 8 is a good rating (at least to me it is). Yet, that still wasn't enough of an explanation to this person. They revealed to me that the rating mattered more to them than the critique. And they even explained away the feedback I did give them. They also went on to say why they deserved a higher rating. In reply, I said, "Thank you for the information." And I have decided to move on from that forum.

Whether it's a close friend or family member or an online critique group, getting critiques about your work is never an easy process. I don't know about you, but the truth is I'd love to a rating of 10 out of 10 for all of my stories. Yet that isn't realistic for the revising process.

Remember that in the critiquing and revising process, your piece of writing is still growing into what it could be. Think of the people in your life that critique your work as fellow gardeners pointing out where you should prune. Most of all, you have the final say and only you can shape the story into a beautiful garden.

If you'll excuse me, I have some pruning to do.


Sioux Roslawski said...

Nicole--What an honest and informative post. I only know about in-person critique groups. Getting feedback from strangers--and I have no idea how much I should value their critique because I don't know them? I have no experience, no knowledge about that kind of feedback.

However, people who value a rating over feedback don't seem like they want to grow as writers, as craftsman. Something rates a 9 or 10 out of 10? That's a book or story I want to keep on my shelf forever, and reread occasionally. That's something I give as gifts to friends. That's not something I see very often.

On the other hand, a 7... a 7 is a piece that has great potential, but isn't quite there yet. It has promise, but it needs work.

I can see why you left that forum. (Good luck with that pruning. You know, it sometimes takes dealing with some manure before your garden blooms.

Angela Mackintosh said...

Great post, Nicole! I had a similar experiences with Zoetrope, where writers are more concerned about their rating on the site than their actual story. I'm not sure why, unless there's a contest going on or something, which I don't think there is, but the rating is virtually meaningless. It's bizarre for someone to fight you on your ranking because it is your opinion, and I think it's a smart decision to move on from the site and find legit critique partners. That was ultimately the decision I came up with when I decided to leave that site back in '05. I think it's a great place to start out and learn about writing though, and it's free.

I also relate to your emotions reading feedback. I tend to fight feedback at first, but then later realize that it has merit. For me, it's because I have a really strong vision of how I want a piece to be, but then I end up coming around and seeing what the reviewer saw and using that to strengthen my vision. SO, you are definitely not alone in your feelings. :)

Have fun pruning! (Ha, I just read Sioux's comment, and she is so right about the manure.)

Nicole Pyles said...

@Sioux - Ha, I love that Sioux. We do often need to step through a lot of manure to get some good growth.

@Angela - You know I had a feeling about there being an ulterior motive too! They do rank stories monthly but aside from seeing your name listed, I don't know if that profits anything. It is a good starting point though but not good for long term. And yeah I almost always fight feedback and take it tremendously personally. And then when I give myself space, I see where people are right (sometimes, lol).

Powered by Blogger.
Back to Top