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Why You Need To Find The “Right” Critiquers For Your Writing


by Jennifer on September 13, 2012

This is a guest post by Jordan Mendys

As a budding writer or any other creative type, the word “criticism” has a certain sting to it. When most hear that word they think that it refers to a bad piece of work, and something that carries no merit.

Criticism, however, can be extremely helpful and healthy for young writers, especially if they are still growing as an artist. This, of course, is called constructive criticism, and it means what it sounds like; it helps you build and grow.

Picking out those you want criticism from, though, is important because you need people you can trust to be objective. More importantly, you need people that aren’t too forgiving or strict about your work, but someone that can see the work as it is.

It is very important to figure out who to trust with your work.

Criticism Givers Should Know Your Work

The biggest mistake you can make when looking for critique is going to someone unfamiliar with your work and your voice. If they are unfamiliar, then they might make suggestions that don’t fit into your work as a whole.

You don’t want to be forced to give up your voice, because then you lose focus on your writing. Instead, try to find someone that knows your style, then the suggestions they make will fit into your style and genre.

Ask Critiquers to Leave Strong Opinions at the Door

Another difficult type of person to work with is someone overly harsh of your work. Chances are they are hyper critical of everyone’s work, and often times only like what they produce.

As a writer and filmmaker, I have seen these people before. These are the ones that don’t want to push you into a better direction, but rather want you to make work identical to theirs. More specifically they think they can do it better than you.

Again, this is not helpful because these individuals rather you not continue the work you’re doing, but rather change the piece completely. You will never benefit from those who try to tear you down.

Don’t Choose A Critiquer Who’s  Too Lenient

On the other side of the spectrum are the too lenient critiquers. Often they are family and close friends, too polite and worried about your feelings to tell you the truth.

This is just as bad as overly critical people because you can’t grow as a writer if you are told nothing is wrong.

The truth is it’s highly unlikely that your work will be perfect the first time, and even the best of us can always continue to learn and grow.

Try to stick to people that you know can be honest with you, even if it hurts a little bit. The best writers and authors didn’t get there by being babied, and you won’t either.

So when you are taking on your next writing piece, seek out individuals you trust to help you along the way.

Have workshopping sessions with trusted colleagues that can give you feedback and let you know what you’re doing right along with what you can improve on. You want to be the best you can be, and you have to put yourself out there to make it happe, but it always pays off in the end.

How do you find the right critiquers for your writing projects?

About the Author: Jordan Mendys is a filmmaker and writer from Moncure, North Carolina. He also currently blogs for Digital Satellite providers, helping people access the best in TV and Film entertainment.

Image courtesy of Kristin Nador

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Daphne Gray-Grant September 14, 2012 at 8:58 am

You make some really valuable points about critiquers.

I think we all need to look for people who go well beyond the goal of “objectivity.” They need to be people who really understand writing. In all honesty, I think the only people who can do this are other writers (who have been published.) If you don’t have any friends who fit this category then I suggest hiring an expert.

Do pianists get advice from friends who are “objective” about piano? Trumpeters? Singers? No! They get professional coaches. I don’t think any serious writer should do any less.

2 Lucy Pireel September 16, 2012 at 12:33 pm

As said writers, serious ones who are really looking for constructive criticism should find peers who know what they are talking about to critique their work. And I disagree that only be published writers know what they are talking about. There are heaps of people who write with great skill, but never get published because they don’t want to, or never get picked up by an agent/publisher. Not because their work is crap, but because they lack the zeal to submit and submit and then submit again.
True, if you have none in your circle who know the least about writing, or rather giving a critique, because these are really two very different things albeit they’re closely related, hire a professional. Someone who will not stroke your ego, but give you the honesty that forces you to take a good look at the work delivered.
Anyway, this post shows you’ve given the subject thought and know what you’re talking about.

3 Jennifer September 16, 2012 at 2:35 pm

I agree Lucy. I know several writers who are amazing at their craft and know what they’re talking about but just aren’t published (yet). Writers groups are usually a mix of people like that and people who are beginners. At least that’s been my experience.

4 Jennifer September 16, 2012 at 2:36 pm

I am fully in support of serious writers hiring coaches. From my experience that is the best way to stay accountable and get your writing done. When I had a writing coach I had a lot less excuses than when I didn’t.

5 Ieva September 24, 2012 at 3:29 am

I have been critiqued quite a bit and have done a fair share of crits myself, and I think that rather than picking and choosing the people who are allowed to crit your work, it’s actually more worthwhile to work on your ways to *receive* the crit–do you perhaps have some ideas on that?

In my experience, the higher quality crits come from people who have a decent knowledge of what I want to write (ie it’s no use if I write something purely literary with the intent for it to be so and somebody comes up with the three-act-structure rant), but other than that, their “qualification” doesn’t matter. My Trusted Reader is not published; my best crit buddy is my husband who’s just well read (but not a writer). (Maybe “being well read” or “being well read in the genre” could be a qualifying thing.)
Everything else, I think, depends a lot not on the personality of the critiquer, but on the right way of asking for the crit, the right way to reacting to it, and the right way of processing it. I’m thinking that if somebody puts in several hours (or maybe ten minutes, who knows?) on my work, then I should put in the rest of the work and get all the best from that crit.

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