So, this will be a bit of a turn from the usual post, as you can see, but it is one of the most important topics I can write about. There should be no wonder why a writer asks for critique. In fact, I am surprised that writers have to actually ask for it at all, especially from other writers. And yet they do. They must. And even with a full paragraph plea for some kind of feedback from their readers, we writers are still left in the dark.
Some consider feedback as a click of the ever-present “like” button. I consider this little button my most common enemy. The overwhelming amount of tweets, blog posts, links, etc. a reader must filter through in a day makes this button their best friend. It is feedback, it is positive, it is fast and easy. But when I ask for feedback, especially critique feedback, I want the thought behind the “like”. And I don’t mean the dreaded two-word enhancement, “Loved it!” or “Well done!” Although these responses are by no means ignored, and certainly appreciated, they are not something I can work with. Critique for me is a stepping stone to improvement. I want responses I can learn from; I want to know what is working for me and what I should change. The more of this feedback I get, the more I can grow as a writer. As Martin Hall, golf expert and teacher, always says, “If you keep doing what you’re doing, you’re going to keep getting what you’re getting.”
And some readers would say, “But it’s not my opinion that matters; it’s the writer’s work, and only he or she can determine if the work is good or not.” This could not be farther from the truth. Yes, a writer’s opinion matters when it comes to their own writing, but a writer does not write for himself or herself. A writer creates a piece of writing and posts it online for others to read. If the audience doesn’t like the writing, the writer is doing something wrong, and needs to know what is wrong to make it right. There is no point in posting writing if the writer doesn’t care what the reader thinks. And if a writer doesn’t care about what the reader thinks, then he or she shouldn’t be posting it. Some writers just post for the ego boost of the “like”, the “Loved it!” and the “Well done!” And that is perfectly fine. But these are the writers that do not ask for critique, and when they do get critiqued, they become defensive. That is their problem. And this is where honesty in critique is most important.
When I ask for critique, I want the full force of it. If you hate my writing, tell me so, and tell me WHY! Don’t just say, “You suck.” Again, another two-word dread. I don’t mean that as I’m scared or angry that you don’t like it, I mean I don’t know why you don’t like it. I want to know what you, the reader, does like. I want to attempt to conform to you. Perhaps not the specific piece that you don’t like (if you hate my fantasy story because you don’t like fantasy to start with, I’m not going to change the whole genre just to make you happy), but knowing what you like as a reader can open new doors for me. If you don’t like my narrative style, perhaps I can try a piece in the style you prefer. A challenge for me and a good read for you is a win for both of us.
On the other side of the comment spectrum, if you love it, and use the two-word dreads I’ve mentioned earlier, I still don’t learn anything. Knowing why you liked/loved a piece of my writing is a good ego boost, but not a stepping stone. I want to know where I went right, be it the narrative style, the dialogue, the pace, what have you. Critique involves detail, the more minute the better. Even if your only constructive critique is, “I love this line…” that is still a way for me to improve. Anything is better than nothing, and to me the two-word dreads are simply not much.
So please, when you see the “critique” tag, or see “critique” somewhere in any given post, from me or any writer, give yourself and the writer a couple more seconds and give feedback. Real feedback.
And yes, critique on this little blurb is greatly appreciated. 🙂
~S. Virginia Gray