Friday, 9 December 2011

harsh critique

I find blowing my own trumpet not just hard, but well nigh impossible. Everywhere I look, there are other writers, pushing their books for all their might, yet I can’t seem to be able to do that. My confidence still needs work. It only takes one negative comment and I’m upset. For example, a friend of mine asked for a criqitue when they entered the NAWG competition. I did the crits without knowing who the writers were. She has come back to me saying that she thought my critique was harsh. At once I felt bad even though I KNOW I would never say anything hurtful or cruel. If I did say anything harsh, it was probably just an honest appraisal because for me, without honesty, feedback isn’t worth the paper it’s written on. It certainly isn’t worth paying for. Yet I’m still upset. I don’t make friends easily and thanks to my upbringing, have always felt that I needed to try and ‘buy’ friendship, usually by putting myself last, or giving time I didn’t have or gifts I couldn’t afford.
My friend’s comment almost put my off ever doing critiques again. As a writer, I need people to want to read my books, so what do I do? I can be honest and risk upsetting people or be nice and let them carry on making the same mistakes.
All I know is that if somebody (more than one!) hadn’t told me my stories were weak, and frankly rubbish, I would still be writing the same, weak, rubbish stories and getting precisely nowhere. As it is, I’ve sold literally hundreds of stories to magazines, and won competitions too.
Also on the writing front, I’ve written to a few local writing groups to see if I can get any bookings for next year. I’ve also gone back to the book I started a couple of months ago. That’s the trouble with me. I have so many ideas, it’s hard to decide what to do next. I thought of another idea for a book only this afternoon. Sadly, I can only do one thing at a time.
I added some more published works to ALCS today. Now they’re accepting newspaper articles too so I’ve been able to add three of the pieces I did for the Sunday Times Confessions of a Tourist slot.
Tonight I’m off to a ‘do’ where I’m in charge of the quiz. Frankly I’d rather be able to take part as that way I might win a prize (I won last year) but it’s only fair for somebody else to do the hard work. I have an even bigger do on tomorrow – the Christmas party at Spice, so I hope I can find the energy I need.


  1. I also received a critique from you re (NAWG competition). I found my critique to be helpful, clear and honest. Yes, I made errors and yes there are areas which need improvement - I accept that and I am grateful for your tips and instruction. If you had not delivered an honest appraisal how could I improve as a writer. I certainly wouldn't say my critique was 'harsh'.

  2. It's hard to know, without seeing the piece or the critique, as to whether the critique was unduly harsh or not. But I think if you were honest and criticised the story, rather than the writer (and I have no doubt you're professional enough to do that), then it's highly unlikely your critique was unfair.

    Some stories don't work, and fixing them can be surprisingly simple, although it's not easy to take that advice if you're too "close" to your work.

    Some writers are over-sensitive, and will take even the mildest critique as a personal attack. Writers who are keen to improve will develop a thick skin as quickly as they can, and accept that (a) not everybody will love their stories, and (b) anybody else's opinion is useful when it comes to working out how to improve a story, even if you don't agree with everything they say.

    Stick to your guns, Linda. You are coming from a position of having enough experience of publishing stories to know what you are talking about. It shouldn't be necessary to sugar-coat your opinions.


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  3. I think once the writer of the story you critiqued steps back a little and takes a deep breath, they'll find the good advice you gave them invaluable. I feel experience teaches us to use criticism in a constructive way to improve our writing instead of perceiving it as, Dan says, 'a personal attack'.

  4. I also received your critique from NAWG and didn't think it unfair at all. Positive criticism is essential if we beginners are to progress. Thanks for your column in WF which is always helpful. Just keep doing what you are doing which is obviously right due to all your successes.