Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Constructive Criticism about Your Writing

I used Grammarly to grammar check this post because extra time spent proofreading could be time spent watching Dexter!

Constructive Criticism about Your Writing

Hardly anyone likes criticism. It is rare for someone to say, "Go ahead and insult me. Tell me everything you don't like about me. Bring it on." It almost feels masochistic to be enthusiastic about receiving a put-down. We are social creatures. We strive to please, and we bask in praise and approval. That is why it is often hard to give essays, articles, or book-length manuscripts to someone for a second opinion. We do not want people laughing at us, picking out our faults, or misunderstanding our message. But there are exceptions to this rule. Children and adults accept input from teachers because the latter have more knowledge about a particular subject. We usually accept constructive criticism from a professional because we view them as authorities. So, when should you accept critical feedback about your writing and when should you disregard it?

First, you do not always need a professional to evaluate your essay or manuscript, although sometimes that can be helpful. But much of the time you can present your material to a trusted friend, colleague, or family member; or you can post your short story or parts of your novel on certain writing forums and receive excellent feedback from fellow writers.

Second, no matter whom you choose to share your material with, ask yourself if you respect that person's writing. Are they smart, literate, and kind? Do they have your best interests at heart? Do they understand your genre and audience? If you are writing science fiction and you give your manuscript to someone who has published four books on anatomy and physiology, that person may not be the best judge of your work.

Third, before reading comments about your unpublished work, put yourself in a Zen frame of mind. Detach from the outcome. Resolve not to get upset or be offended. Try to act as though your reader has provided feedback on someone else's manuscript. If this is someone who cares about you, they will not want to hurt you, and as a result, hopefully they will be as tactful as possible. Ask yourself if the criticism rings true. Did you confuse points of view in your story? Are certain parts redundant, boring, or irrelevant? Be honest with yourself. The only one who stands to benefit is you.

Last, do not go to Amazon looking for useful feedback on your published material. Some people on Amazon love to book bash. Ditto for reviewers or certain blogs. Once you have published your book, choose reviewers who are highly rated as impartial and professional. Even then, do not take a negative review to heart. Some bestsellers receive terrible reviews – Fifty Shades of Grey comes to mind – and those mixed reviews have not affected sales adversely at all! That is because I may love a certain book and you may hate it, but our combined opinions have little to do with the objective value of the book.

So, do your best writing your manuscript and when it is time to hand it over for evaluation, choose your readers carefully and establish a confident mindset so that you can hear what they are saying without feeling or hurt or angry, and then just dismiss feedback that is not relevant or helpful.
Happy writing.
Sigrid Mac, Author of Be Your Own Editor

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