How To Get the Most Out of A Writing Critique

By Jennifer Blanchard

As a writer, if you’re interested in making your writing better, you will, at some point, have to subject yourself to constructive criticism.

At first, this can be very difficult. It’s hard to hear someone say critical things about the writing you spent so much time on and put your heart into.

But this criticism, when used correctly, can make your writing a thousand times better.

Here is how to make the most of a critique:

  • Prepare Yourself–You are doing it. You are finally going to let someone read your writing. This is a huge step, so congratulations. But before you get on with the critique, it’s a good idea to make sure you are 100 percent OK with this. If you go into the critique ready for it, you’ll get a much better result than if you go into it with an attitude or thinking that the person is going to “cut you down.”Once you’re ready to fully accept criticism, move on to step two.
  • Choose a Constructively Critical Reader–You want to make sure you ask someone to critique your work who will be constructive and give you ideas and suggestions for making your writing better. Criticism of your writing should always be constructive. If the person you asked for a critique is being mean, making fun or just completely rude, you have every right to ignore him/her (and never ask them to critique your work again!).
  • Read Through Everything First–Once the person has critiqued your writing, the next thing you’ll want to do is read through all their comments. Don’t judge any of the comments or get defensive and start explaining why you wrote it this way or that way. Just take it all in.
  • Be (and Remain) Open-Minded–A constructive critique can easily put you on your defenses if you don’t approach it with an open mind. The person is there to help you. And you asked them to, so you should give them the benefit of the doubt and at least consider what they are telling you.
  • Understand that Constructive Criticism Will Make Your Writing Better–After you’ve worked on something for so long, it’s hard to let it go. It’s hard to be open to someone telling you it’s not perfect or that it needs more work. But ultimately, this is the information you need to get to that next step in your writing career. The more you accept criticism and learn how to use it, the better your writing will be.
  • Consider that You Don’t Know Everything–It’s your writing, which means you are extremely close to the project. And being thisclose to the project stops you from having another perspective. That’s why criticism is so important. The people who read and critique your work will be reading it for improvement. They will be reading to help you make it better.
  • Remember the Choice is Yours–You asked this person to read and constructively criticize your writing. But that doesn’t mean what this person says goes. Although their advice is appreciated, you are ultimately the decision-maker. You are the one who decides which comments you use and which you ignore.

To get the best critique possible, you want to ask someone who actually knows what he/she is talking about. So while your mom, sister or significant other might read it and just “love, love, love it!” A critical reader, who has some experience in writing, will make a much better reader.

I recently asked one of my good friends–a magazine editor who has written three books of her own–to read and critique my first novel. I was a bit nervous as this is a woman I look up to, as well as appreciate advice from.

She ended up coming back to me and saying that overall the story was solid, interesting and definitely sellable…but my main character needed a major overhaul. She said the main character was immature and she wanted to slap her the entire time.

Ouch!

But having her say that to me really made me go back and look at my character through her viewpoint. Turns out, she’s right! So now I’m going back and tweaking some parts of the book so the main character’s immaturity is intentional, as opposed to annoying and lame.

Having my writer-friend critique my book felt awesome. While there is still a lot of work ahead of me, I at least now know what I need to do to make my book better.

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How about you? Have you had your work critiqued? How did it work for you? Any additional ideas for getting the most out of a critique?

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