The “C” Word

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As writers, we’re looking for the perfect story. Once we think we’ve found it and write it then it’s time for the inevitable. I call it the “C” word.

Criticism.

It’s a hefty word for a writer. If you’re new and not used at getting criticism it will be your worse enemy (right up there with Writer’s Block). Even if you are used at criticism, a lot of times there are those people who just tear your work to shreds, and in the end you are left wondering why you even wrote what you wrote.

Last night I was talking to a friend about criticism. She had been working on a short children’s story and was looking for people to read it over and let her know what they think. I jumped at the chance, eager to see what she had been working on. And it wasn’t bad at all. I honestly thought it was a cute idea for a children’s story. At the same time, I showed her where she could improve. This is called constructive criticism, and is one of the most helpful forms of criticism. It can be hurtful at times too, so don’t be deceived.

After my four years of college I have come out with some rules that I remind myself of when it comes to criticism.

1) It may be better to NOT ask your friends. That all depends though. Some friends will look at it and be like “oh this is good”. That’s really not what you want. It doesn’t get you anywhere. If you want to have feedback from your friends, have a list of questions prepared for afterward. Ask what they liked about it, what they didn’t like, why they didn’t like , etc. It’ll work toward your favor more this way.

2) My counter to rule 1 is if you have writer friends ask them before non-writer friends. Writer friends may actually try to give you constructive criticism because they’ll know how it feels to not receive any.

3) If you don’t like the advice you’re given, don’t listen. You don’t have to change EVERYTHING to appease your reader. If you want something to be a specific way, and someone doesn’t like it take their advice with a grain of salt (cliche, I know). You’re the only one who knows why you did it that way, and where one person doesn’t like it many more may like it.

4) If you’re the one giving criticism, don’t be harsh. You don’t like it when people are harsh with your work, so don’t be harsh with others. Don’t say things like “this is stupid” or “this doesn’t make sense”. Instead go for playing devil’s advocate. Ask the writer why they did something and what they would think if it was done differently. What I tend to do is give advice with the writer knowing that I’m not telling them to do anything they don’t want to, but it’s all just what I was thinking and they can take it or leave it.

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