Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Bad critiques and Writing the Next Line.

Well, today is quick and easy.  I want to thank Crystal for the Sweet Blogger award.  She is the sweetest--go check out her blog. 

Mark your calenders--I will host another Writing the Next Line on May 12th. I have work related duties and will be M.I.A. for a few days. When I return, I will post the story in full.

Flirt Blogfest hosted by Critique This on May 16th.

I also wanted to answer a question that was asked by Alexandra Shostak in yesterday's comments.
Go and check out her blog after you read this one. ;)

She asked, "Have you ever had a really BAD critique?" If you mean BAD as in curl  myself into a ball in a dark room and cry my eyes out, YES.

I don't want to sound like I'm some super woman who doesn't react. I do. Everytime I post something that I have written or send my WiP to anyone to critique (including CPs) my stomach gets all knotty and sick. My mind usually gives me the lecture on doubt. You know the one where it tells you that you are not a good writer, you're never going to get anywhere, what are you thinking, etc.  I have to get over it though. My design experience has helped me with this--criticism. It has toughen me a little.

That's not to say that I don't get a stinging feeling in my gut when there is a bunch of red on the page. Tears do well up and sometimes fall and I go curl up on the couch eating a bunch of chocolate along with ice cream. I feel that I have to chalk it up to learning and making my WiP the best it can be. I also turn it into motivation to prove that I can. My life has some regret and I don't want anymore of it especially if I love to do it. It makes me happy when I can create something from my heart.

The other thing is I don't have a lot of time to focus on the negative. If I do, my family will suffer. I have two young ones at home and it's hard enough to keep up with them.  If I'm depressed they are super bad. Again, this does happen now and again but not as much as it used to. I'm a natural pessimist so I can fall into the depression trap real easy. I need to try and focus on all the happy I can.

I have my moments of utter doubt and I vent on the negativity that comes my way.  I'll post about it and you wonderful folks will make me feel better. So thanks for that!

You may want to ask me this question again when I start to query because patience is not my strengh.  He He. ;)

So, have you had a BAD critique?

How do you handle criticism?

Have a great day!


  1. Congrats on the award Christine! You deserve it.

    I've got a bad critique. And I did curl in a ball and cry, I admit it! Then I had copious amounts of wine. It hurts but looking back, the critique was 100 per cent accurate.

  2. Yes - absolutely echo what Talli says. I have received a bad critique (perhaps that should be constructive critique!) and they were totally right. It was an instant stomach-dropping sadness, but once I got over that and worked on my mistakes, I realised exactly what they meant.

  3. I've only recently started working with a beta reader/CP so I have not had a really bad critique yet, but I hope, HOPE that when I do I will take it for what it is: an honest attempt to make my writing better.

    After all that's the whole point of a critique, even if the feedback doesn't quite exactly fit the point was to try to improve the writing.

  4. I appreciate the comment not having a lot of time to focus on the negative. Most of the time obstacles are opportunities too.

  5. I get knots in my stomach as well right before being critiqued, I hope everyone will like it and not be too harsh, but sometimes that's what's necessary to make it better. Each step you take is a step closer to improvement!!

    I try not to focus so much on the negative, just let it marinate and decide if I agree, if I find that I don't then I keep what I had and move forward, but more often than not something is changed.

  6. I would have NEVER taken you as a pessimist! You're always so happy. All that hard work is paying off. ;)

    Congrats on the award!

  7. Congrats on the award, Christine!

    Crits make me more nervous than hearing back from an agent. I don't know why. Can't say I've had a bad crit . . . other than when they don't point out glaring errors, and I end up querying a ms that wasn't ready. But that's not what you meant. I would take the stuff I agree with and ignore the rest (after I sit on it for a few days).

  8. Being a flutist has helped me with critiques on my writing. Every flute lesson I took growing up, my teacher told me what I needed to do better, and so I see it as people trying to help you out.

    But I do need some positive in there as well. If someone just sends their criticisms and no compliments, that tends to get me down.

  9. Whenever I critique for someone else, I always call them 'suggestions' not criticisms. That way, they can take them any way they want to.

    When I get critiqued, I force myself to say, they're only 'suggestions', that way I don't have that mind-numbing fear that I'm a sucky writer.

    If I believe they're only suggestions, if I disagree with what they said, then I don't have to fix it, if I don't want to. And by the end of the week, I'm re-working what they 'suggested' even though I said I wouldn't.

  10. Thanks Christine! You are the sweetest too :)

    Oh boy, bad critiques. They hurt. I usually end up hating myself for at least a day and taking a long and painful run with my ipod cranked way up to my most angry music. Aww feel better just thinking about it!

    But then I look at it and laugh because, they were totally right! :) But I think the people I've let read my stuff (ahem. . . you and our mutual friends) are really very kind in their delivery of improvements to be made.

  11. Oh yes! In the beginning I took really hard. But I've got used to it now becasue I can see how they majorly improve my skills! :)

    Don’t miss out on my contest!

  12. you know, i don't think i've ever had a crit that really hurt me or upset me. I think i must be really good at taking crits, or i've gotten lucky and had really helpful (as opposed to hurtful) critiquers

  13. I always get nervous before reading through crits, but once I get through it, I'm fine. I figure I may as well get used to brutal honesty from fellow critters because the agents/editors won't go easy, for sure!

  14. I've never had a critique that was out of line. Most people who have critiqued my work at any point in time have been right about their suggestions, which helps a little. That doesn't mean it doesn't sting to see my pages marked up, though.

    I haven't received a crit that's made me cry (yet) but I've had my moments where I wonder if I should give up, if my work is even salvageable. When I feel like this, Hubby tells me to sleep on it, and he's right. I wake up and feel more positively about it.

  15. I've not had a really bad critique, just suggestions for improvement. Guess I should prepare for the inevitable, shouldn't I?

  16. At some point in the not too distant past, I got one hell of a thrashing. I wasn't yet an editor at the time, just a quivering writer occasionally at the receiving end of criticism. Up until then though, nothing had really hit me hard, perhaps because nothing had been half as bad as those specific words. I always find it odd how some people say that 'it's not about you, let's be clear, this is about the work', for they seem to disregard that creative choices define us as individuals and are forever intertwined with our sense of identity. Of course it is about me, I have written this, it's part of me. Yes, it is about us all the time, and so I found that the best course of action is to pick ourselves up and continue, onwards and upwards. Wallow in self-pity a little too long and then you'll never be able to create again.

    Looking back I am wondering why on earth I got so upset, but, of course, it's easy to say so now. Sadly, although understood retrospectively, life must be lived forwards. When I talk about such disasters to people I work with, I always send them a piece off 'Coleridge: Darker Reflections', the biography by Richard Holmes. It relates to the critical pounding that Coleridge received by Thomas Hazlitt. And if he survived, so can we. Enjoy and good luck!


    "The reviews of Coleridge’s new books began to appear in the autumn of 1817. They were as bad as he feared, or rather worse. Hazlitt immediately set about the Biographia in an enormous 10,000-word assault in the August issue of the Edinburgh Review, calling it a “garrulous” production from “the maggots of his brain”. Hazlitt concentrated his fire on what he regarded as Coleridge’s well-established weaknesses: obscurity of style, shifts of political opinion, “maudlin egotism”, “garrulous” reminiscences, and above all the passion for metaphysics which “have been a dead weight on the wings of his imagination”. Hazlitt simply did not engage with the great strengths of the Biographia. The story of the philosophical pilgrimage was a “long-winding metaphysical march”. The emerging theory of the Imagination was “unintelligible”. The superb critical dialogue with Wordsworth was “not very remarkable either for clearness or candour”. The memorable psychological accounts of how a poet’s mind works, and how poetry is actually composed (with all its arresting imagery) were “mawkish spleen in fulsome eulogies of his own virtue”. It was the most unrelenting of Hazlitt’s attacks, giving no quarter, and returning again and again to the charge of intellectual charlatanism and political apostasy. His old mentor was now “a disappointed demagogue” who kept up, in vain, “that pleasurable poetic fervour which has been the cordial and bane of his existence”. “Till he can do something better, we would rather hear no more of him".

  17. I've had harsh criticism - harsh but constructive that rang true once I'd mulled it over. But I would call that 'good' criticism'. I've only once been on the recieving end of 'bad' criticism when a writer who's views I valued told me my work was dreadful, unpublishable and overwritten, but, when pressed, could/would not clarify why she said these things and what about it was so bad. It tore me apart for ages simply because I couldn't work out where she was coming from and why she said it. That sort of thing is, in my view, destructive. It took me ages to get my confidence back.

  18. I feel super special for having my question made into a blog post! Thanks! :) Also, it's great that you're able to remain mostly positive, even when acknowledging those terrible feelings that make you want to curl up into a ball and cry (I've cried before, but you're right, we just get over it, find something positive about it, and use it to our advantage.)

    Haha, so I suppose now it's my turn to talk about my bad critique experiences? The worst one I had was from someone who was VERY confident in their advice, so it didn't immediately occur to me that they were wrong--but this was dangerous, because this person really did NOT understand my WIP, and took to rewriting BIG chunks of it (I mean like paragraph sized chunks every other page) in prose that sounded nothing like me. That was, hands down, the worst critique I have ever had. I agonized over it for several weeks before I figured out that it was making my ms worse, not better. So now, even critiques that are harsh and make me tear up are better, because at least I know that I'll recognize when it's a valid critique--and I can handle a valid critique, even if it does make me upset for a little while. :-P

  19. I don't think I've received a BAD critique before. Critiques that left me feeling I should completely start over? Yes.

    I try to take the criticism as a springboard for my revisions, and try to avoid making the same mistakes again.

    However, there are some critiques that I admit may be disregarded stubbornly as I believe them to be a difference of literary opinion. ;)

  20. I've definitely had critiques that stung, critiques that weren't that useful, and critiques that were downright poopy. But fortunately, I've mostly worked with really great people who have offered insightful, constructive critiques for my work. That is such a blessing. I think the trick is to learn how to take the criticism, good and bad, and use it in any way you can, even if it's learning how not to critique others. But, oh my word, I'm so lucky with my CPs right now. They're the best.

  21. At first I thought "bad" critique had to do with someone who gave you bad advice. I've had that happen. When I was just starting out writing, I thought everyone knew better than I did. However, as the years have gone by, I have come to trust myself to know what has to happen in my book. Have I had a lot of red marks on my manuscript? Sure. Did it upset me? Of course. Though now that I've crossed over to the published side of this business, I have come to realize I'd rather have the critiques before the book is published, so please tell me what's wrong while I can do something about it. :0)

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  23. If the critique is destructive, I get angry. Go ahead and give me solid feedback and I'll try to make it work. Seriously.

    I have been known to *yell* with my CPs when they don't react super positively to my wonderful story ideas. I think I am just *talking loudly* but then I know they're right. God love them--they put up with me cause I give back equally honest critique.

    I'm getting better about the *yelling and/or talking excitedly* now. But I believe it's because I try to wait a while before I send my *baby* out to them. I have more distance.

    Bad judging, East German Judges with all cap and red ink blood? Copious amounts of wine help me bypass the negativity.

    Thank goodness that has happened very rarely otherwise my liver would lose function. ;-)