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A Critique Is a Gift – It Contains Choices and Possibilities


“A Critique Is a Gift-It Contains Choices and Possibilities” by Joan Y. Edwards

A critique is a gift. It contains choices and possibilities for you to consider. Not – YOU HAVE TO BELIEVE THIS AND DO THIS OR ELSE your story will not survive. Use your critiques to empower you to improve your manuscript and take it to a higher level.

Sometimes you don’t ask the person who critiques your work enough questions. If you can get them to interact with you back and forth after the critique, it would be helpful. You as a writer are brave. Ask questions. Many times you are lucky to have gotten the critique and there’s no way of communicating with that person again. Having the right thoughts going through your mind when you’re reading your critique will help you accept it as the gift it is and use it to your advantage.

Don’t be afraid of what a critique says. You’re afraid probably because you’ve received countless rejections. Hundreds of rejections that stack up from the floor to the ceiling. This may cause you to doubt yourself as a writer. You may believe rejection means you are not a good writer. Actually, rejection doesn’t mean anything about your writing except that the person reading it didn’t have a passion for what you wrote like you do. It didn’t “call” them.”

I challenge you to change your thinking. Accept in your mind that it’s all right if they like it. And it’s all right if they don’t like it. Once you get to that point, you’re able to really listen to what they are saying. As long as you like your story and believe it will be published, and you’ve visualized it in its final form with cover and binding and people purchasing it. You’ll see that a critique is either your pathway to growth or the pathway to giving up. It’s your choice.

There is another very real possibility. It could be that the person who critiqued your work likes your work and is trying to help you make it better. Or they missed part of your plan for your story. They don’t understand parts of your plot. If possible, ask them questions.

Ask questions. Suppose 3 different people tell you to start at three different places in your story.

If someone tells you that you’re starting your story at the wrong place, ask them to tell you more.

  1. Where do you think it should start and why?
  2. Why do you think I wrote this story? What did you learn from it?
  3. Is there a better place to start the story? What is it? Why?
  4. Is the emotion missing?
  5. Do I give action, reaction, and dialogue for each scene?
  6. Give me possible what ifs for my story.
  • What if your main character did this?
  • What if the setting was in a different place, like _______.
  • If such and such happened, what would be the new set of chain reactions for the main character? If the main character does this, then the villain would do what?
  • What if the main character’s problem was even more difficult, steeper, harder for him to handle, like ______________?

Before you use any of the information in a critique, make sure you agree 100 per cent with any changes you make. Make those changes you agree with as quickly as you can. Send it out. Submit it again.

If there are parts of the critique you don’t agree with, you have two choices – delete them and never think about them again or let the manuscript hibernate in a drawer or in a folder in your computer for 1-4 weeks-no longer than that. Then take it out and read the critique again. Read your manuscript again with new eyes. Pretend this is the first time you’ve ever read it. Pretend you’re a potential buyer of your book in a store. You open it up to the first page. You read it. What do you think? If you still are not 100 per cent sure you want to use the questionable advice in this critique. Let it go. Delete it. Say a prayer. Relax. Believe in your manuscript. It will be published. You will know the changes to make. Studying the craft books that are in this area will help. Trust yourself and your story.

Accept in your mind that your beginning might be the best or another beginning might be best. Either is okay with you in your mind. Now allow yourself to choose the right place to start your story. You are the writer of this story. Believe that you can choose the right place. Other people’s opinions are possibilities. Other people’s opinions are choices. They are not facts. They are opinions. They give you something you never thought about. They give you possibilities. What a gift! Rejoice! Remember it’s your choice, your story. Believe that these critiques are not going to stop you from reaching your goal. They are steps to make your story better. To get it in top-notch shape for publication.

Be happy and rejoice with every critique you receive. Delete any ideas and suggestions that you don’t agree with 100 per cent after you’ve studied it and given good consideration of the possibilities given. It’s your story. You are the author. You will decide great things for your story. Now revise your manuscript with high energy and a good feeling and thankfulness for the critique.

Summarizing above:

Receive the critique.

Use what you agree with 100 per cent right away. Change the manuscript and submit again.

Put the questionable advice and the manuscript in a drawer. Wait from 1-4 weeks. Then read the critique and the manuscript again with new eyes. Make a decision. Use the advice or delete it. Then go forward.

Believe in your manuscript. Believe in you and your story.

Do something fun to celebrate you today!
Never Give Up

Joan Y. Edwards

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20 Responses

  1. Hi Joan,

    Yay for choices, for possibilities. The sky’s the limit! It’s fun to think back on all the major changes we make to a work in progress (WIP). Sometimes it’s hard to recognize it as the same story originally told.
    Think how each change was for the better. That shows growth in writing skills. I like that you suggest that we ask the person critiquing more questions. That’s an excellent idea instead of saying, “I don’t know why he/she said that.” Thanks for always keeping us inspired to keep improving.

    Like

    • Dear Linda,
      Thanks for writing. What people tell us might not be the thing that we do, but it might lead us to think of something entirely different and add another dimension to our stories. Exactly, each change makes your story better. Sometimes we are so afraid of what it means that we don’t ask for details which might explain and then we’d see that they liked it but didn’t understand or wanted to know more about the situation or the character. Being open to improvement is something I’ve done for a very long time. If we don’t think of our version of the story being wrong and the critique may hold the answer to a solution to making the story outstanding instead of so-so, we’ll be more open and accepting. We don’t have to use what the suggestions. We just have to give the readers the right to give us their opinions. We don’t have to agree with them. We just need to read them and decide for ourselves. They give it freely. We are not bound by a reader to take their advice for a manuscript, unless we agree 100 per cent that it will help make our manuscripts stronger. Thank you for writing. I appreciate you.

      Like

  2. This is good advice. Sometimes taking criticism is difficult, especially if you think your work is strong. If someone is truly trying to help improve your story by pointing out its strengths and weaknesses, then take the advice into consideration. Of course, just because someone says one thing doesn’t mean that it’s accurate, so be critical of the criticism. Considering the source is always good, too.

    Like

    • Dear Jamie,
      Thanks for writing. I’m glad you believe it’s good advice. You’re right, just because people say it, doesn’t make it the truth. We sometimes think that others are better than us and therefor an authority. We need to respect our rights to use the information we think is truthful and helpful. And let go of the other. It’s easier said than done, sometimes. We are sensitive people. We do the best we can. That’s all we can do. Do something fun to celebrate you today!
      Never Give Up
      Joan Y. Edwards

      Like

  3. Wow! Let it hibenate four weeks? I recognized long ago that I should not submit anything that had not rested overnight, but four weeks? That seems like a very long time. I have enough work to do that I can happily put anything off for four weeks, but I would fear from the very start that if I put it off for four weeks, I would simply let it slide into oblivion. Help! Why four weeks? In your experience, what would be the problem with one week, or two?
    I do love the way you always tell me — this is your work, your story, your idea. Go for it! That encourages me. I’m just worried that anything that sits for four weeks could just as easily sit forever.

    Like

    • Dear Katherine,
      Thanks for writing. Maybe I need to clarify this. If there’s a critique you’re having trouble handling, then I suggest letting the manuscript and the critique to hibernate. If you agree 100 per cent with the critique, make your changes and go for it. There have been a few critiques that I took personally. It stopped me and my story in my tracks. I’m just thinking, if I let them hibernate for awhile, then when I look at them, it will be with new eyes. It might just take you 24 hours. Some people say to get the story out again within 7 days. I’ll reword my blog post above and see if I can explain it better. Always go with your gut feeling. For instance after reading my blog, if you think a month is too long. Delete my words. Each of us is different. Honor your gut feelings. They are the ones that are correct for you. I’m really glad you shared your thoughts with me. I’ll add other choices above. Check it in a few minutes. I’m glad you like that I always remind you that it’s your work, your story, your idea. Thanks for telling me that. We’ve got to believe in our story otherwise it might sit in the drawer too long…perhaps forever as you point out. Therefore believe that your story will be published. Take it to the next level. You can do it. If my voice is stopping you in your tracks, don’t listen to it. Listen to the one that pulls you to realize your goal.

      Do something fun to celebrate you and your gift of writing
      Never Give Up
      Joan Y. Edwards

      Like

      • I see your revisions, and that approach feels better to me. I certainly see your point if the critique pushes some hot button for me. Angry rejection could be a dismissal of comments that might have been the springboard to a great work. Four weeks later it might look quite different. I’ll keep in mind what you said. I actually have a critique from the conference that I will allow to sit quietly till next Monday. It didn’t make me angry, but I did find myself justifying my position instead of digesting the comments.
        I won’t give up. Thanks to you,
        Katherine

        Like

        • Dear Katherine, I’m glad you understand now with the revisions in my post. Sometimes we have things going on in our minds that don’t get explained in our writing. I’m glad you brought up your concern so that it gave me the opportunity to explain what I meant in a clearer choice of words. Waiting a few days and then reading your critique with new eyes and an open vision to improving your manuscript is healthy for you. If you still don’t agree with it. Let it go. You will find a different way to clarify your writing. Don’t use something that makes you feel bad about you or your writing. What is truly meant for you to revise will feel good and you will rejoice and be thankful for it. I’m glad you’re not giving up! Hurray for you. Do something fun to celebrate you and your family today.

          Joan Dream! Love! Laugh! Never Give Up Joan Y. Edwards http://www.joanyedwards.com http://www.joanyedwards.wordpress.com

          Like

  4. Whenever I critique a manuscript, I make a lot of suggestions… some of them may never have occurred to the writer, Sometimes I have to suggest that the writer do a complete overhaul of her manuscript, eliminate a character or cut out a scene. I know that this is painful (having had this done to me by editors), but it’s a useful kind of pain. Writing is so fluid… you can change it and meld it and shape it in a hundred ways!

    Maureen

    http://www.maureenwartski.com/index.htm

    Like

    • Dear Maureen, Thank you for writing and giving us the viewpoint of the person doing the critique. You’re right many suggestions others make in the critique, the writers may not have even considered and would enhance it. Writing is definitely fluid and can be shaped in at least 100 ways. My point is not in necessarily what is said or suggested, but how the writer views it. Believing in our writing and that it will be published and that no critique can stop it. I believe that the writer will know when something is good and helpful and will use it. If they don’t believe it will work or resist its possibility of working, and they don’t believe 100 per cent that it’ll help, then I believe it’s best for them to let go of that suggestion and find another way of solving the problem as the other person saw it in their manuscript.

      When you give your critiques, I am sure you give people blue ribbon passages, parts they do well to surround the places where you suggest changes. Without the gift of the critique and the suggestions, writers might be not inspired to go to a deeper level of thinking necessary to create that masterpiece manuscript that will grip the whole world.

      Thank you for being uplifting in your blog posts and sharing about the wonderful elements of our world and of writing.

      Celebrate you and your love of family and writing today

      Joan Dream! Love! Laugh! Never Give Up. Joan Y. Edwards http://www.joanyedwards.com http://www.joanyedwards.wordpress.com

      Like

  5. Joan, great topic and information. I’m always talking about the need to be part of a ‘good’ critique group. There’s just too much we, as the author, can miss. We’re just too close to our own work.

    This is especially true in regard to clarity. We know exactly what we mean, but that may not translate over to the reader. Critique partners will be able to spot areas that lack clarity.

    Karen Cioffi Writing and Marketing

    Like

    • Dear Karen,
      Thanks for writing. I’m glad you liked the topic and information. You are exactly right. Being a part of a good critique group is important to helping writers spot points in their manuscripts where the meaning is not clear. The more experience you have with receiving critiques, the more you realize it is not about you personally. Writing, studying about writing, and getting your work critiqued are all ways to improve. Writers sometimes fail to describe situations and characters so that readers can understand their conflicts and the inner turmoil that wars within their minds.
      Even so they must accept themselves where they are. If they don’t feel right about a certain critique, it’s okay to let it go. If they like a certain critique, then use it.

      I believe it all goes step by step, little by little or by leaps and bounds, a writer grows to the point where they submit to the editor or agent that’s just right for them. They are both looking for each other. Getting your work critiqued by someone you trust is a great idea. Being within the comfort of a critique group that a writer meets with on a monthly basis or shares his work online once a month, will help him grow in the acceptance of himself as a writer.
      Do you have any advice you give to critique groups when they are critiquing a work?

      Celebrate you and family today.
      Never Give Up
      You Give Life to Many People and Their Stories

      Like

  6. Hi Joan,

    As writers it’s important to make the most of our critiques and to accept criticism with professionalism. Thanks for sharing your advice on critiques.

    By the way, I tagged you in the Lucky 7 Meme for bloggers/writers if you’d like to participate: http://diannaswritingden.com/2012/03/26/lucky-7-meme/

    Thanks,
    ~Dianna

    Like

    • Dear Diana, I’m really glad that you like my advice on critiques. I am bowing humbly. How cool that you tagged me in the Lucky 7 Meme for bloggers/writers! I am honored. Thank you. Is there a time limit?

      Joan Dream! Love! Laugh! Never Give Up. Joan Y. Edwards http://www.joanyedwards.com http://www.joanyedwards.wordpress.com

      Like

      • Joan,

        I don’t think there’s a time limit. The sooner the better though–I’m looking forward to seeing your response.

        ~Dianna

        Like

        • Dear Dianna,
          Thanks for letting me know there’s no time limit. It’s really nice that you are looking forward to my reply.

          Never Give Up
          Joan Y. Edwards

          Like

  7. Thank you so much for this useful article!
    Your advice about deleting comments I’ve decided not to use is exactly what I need to hear right now.
    I’m never sure what to do with comments that give conflicting reactions. I know I get to choose (and am happy that at least one person will agree with my choices!) but still, that other comment will sit there in the back of my mind…that one unhappy reader who will not like where I am taking my story will send negative energy into my creative process, as it were.
    Now I know what to do. Delete those. Don’t look back. I can’t make everyone happy if I want to make myself happy.

    I love the blog! New follower. 🙂

    Like

    • Dear Kirsten,
      Thank you for writing and following my blog: I am honored. I’m glad my comments about deleting comments you’ve decided not to use is exactly what you need to hear. Exactly, after you’ve pondered it. Considered it. Decided it’s not to your advantage to use it. Delete it. Live your life with no regrets. I have some that I’ve let hang on for tooooooooooooo long. I need to let them go. It’s okay if I don’t like them. If I don’t like them, there’s some reason. You don’t have to figure it out. Honor yourself and say it’s okay. Then focus on what you believe will help. Chances are what you do will make the story better. Why? Because that is your goal. Live with no regrets about critique suggestions you don’t use. There are other ways to accomplish a better story. There is more than one way. You will find it.
      Celebrate you and your love for writing.
      Never Give Up
      Joan Y. Edwards

      Like

  8. Another good one for my wiki! Thanks!!

    Like

    • You are very welcome.
      Enjoy your day!
      Joan

      Like

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