Wednesday, September 29, 2010

CONSTRUCTIVE CRITICISM, LOVE OR HATE




Ever since writing my first accepted piece of writing some years back -- a short story for which I received $50--I have had to deal with "constructive criticism." This is often in the form of rejection letters, but can also come through editors of material that has been sold but still needs to be "polished" to their standards. Reading groups, friends, and acquaintances can critique your work as well, and may tell you things you don't want to hear.

Once upon a time, I found it tough to swallow criticism of my work, constructive or not, believing that any negative review of work was ultimately an attack on the writer and not the project, per se. Moreover, most writers are pretty stubborn when it comes to anything less than favorable of their writings, believing them by and large to be works of art that needs little if any revision.

Of course, now that I am a bit more seasoned with many books and short stories to my credit, I have a much greater understanding and appreciation of constructive criticism and actually seek out rather than run from.

Indeed, I credit the many critical reviews and constructive critiques of my works that I have received over the years as playing a big role in my development as a writer. If you only take to heart even one or two points driven home by an editor, another writer, or anyone else who can offer objective constructive criticism, it can go a long ways in improving your craft.

Sometimes I have gone back to look at constructive criticism I received for earlier works to help keep me on the straight and narrow in shaping current projects. I recognize today that in most instances, the editor or reviewer is not out to make your life miserable or be mean for the sake of it, but genuinely want to help you to become the best you can be as a writer.

Once you accept constructive criticism in this light, it can always work to your advantage, no matter how cutting it may appear at times.

Also, a writer is never too big or successful to be immune to constructive criticism. We have all read books by established, bestselling writers that could be improved upon, but may not have been given the same scrutiny by editors because of the writer's stature. This ultimately hurts such writers and the quality of their books if not told what they should be, constructively speaking.

What are your thoughts on constructive criticism or tough reviews of your writing? Do you take in the manner intended? Or find difficult to accept if it goes against the grain of your own lofty opinion of the work?

7 comments:

Jewel Amethyst said...

I welcome critiques of my work before it is published. After that when I can't change it, I feel a little bad, but get over it pretty soon and apply it toward my future work.

G said...

Originally, I would get very upset over any kind of negative feedback on my writing.

About a year and a half ago, I started to grow up. I started a short story blog that became a home for my year long fascination with flash fiction, which in turn help fill a vital need of receiving/accepting/rejecting criticism and receiving/accepting/rejectin writing tips.

I think my major turning point came when I asked a writer/ex-journalist/blogger friend if she would be kind enough to critique my first draft of a recently completed novel.

Most (if not all) of the critique she gave (via the phone and e-mail) was difficult to swallow but I found it did help me in the second round editing.

Devon Vaughn Archer said...

I have always subscribed to that old adage: "The biggest room in the world is the room for improvement."

As such, if constructive criticism can assist me in improving my writing to the best it can be, then I encourage such as part of the process.

Charles Gramlich said...

Once in a great while some criticism will really twist a knife in me, but most of the time I take it well and appreciate it. I do find that criticisms don't always make sense. Sometimes critiques aren't seeing the big picture of the whole novel. Sometimes they are just wrong for the character or the voice, but quite often they point up issues that the writer can learn from.

Carol Mitchell said...

It is always difficult to accept criticism. We take a big risk putting our thoughts and ideas on paper and sending them out into the world for all to see. However, for some reason, I find it especially difficult to accept criticism from loved ones. My husband does a great job on a first critique of my work, and even though I eventually incorporate most of his suggestions and even though he presents them in a kind, helpful, supportive way, it still is harder to swallow than if it came from anyone else.

Shauna Roberts said...

I've never minded getting editorial comments or critiques (except those occasions when editorial comments required a drastic rewrite to make the article worse instead of better). I want my published work to be as good as possible. If other people's comments can help me make it better, bring them on.

Liane Spicer said...

I consider all my critique partner's comments, take what I think will improve the story and discard the rest.

Editors are a different kettle of fish. Once the work is sold they're in charge. I discuss the edits and follow their guidelines unless I feel very strongly that the suggested changes are wrong for the story.