Be a Better Writer--DEALING WITH NEGATIVE CRITIQUE

These lessons, by one of our most consistent FaithWriters' Challenge Champions, should not be missed. So we're making a permanent home for them here.

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Re: Be a Better Writer--DEALING WITH NEGATIVE CRITIQUE

Post by RachelM » Sun Jul 27, 2014 8:27 pm

I hadn't written since school, but then an idea for a novel came to me about 6 years ago, and I spent months totally preoccupied in writing my novel. I let it sit for about 4 years. I was afraid to show it to people and maybe find out that it was garbage--it was just so close to my heart.

About 2 years ago, I started reading books and listening to podcasts on the art of writing. It really dawned on me that writing is like learning an instrument--it takes work and effort to develop the skill. I was able to look at my novel again and see it as a work in progress. It has many, many weaknesses, but underneath the rough edges and poor grammar there's a story to be told.

I've learned to see the value of learning from those with more writing experience. I treasure those friends that will read my writing and show me both the strengths and weaknesses. Embracing constructive critique has enabled me to see where I need to grow.

I hope to one day have a novel published, but I know that I have a lot to learn before that is possible. I want to have an attitude of humility and be willing to learn from others. I think that humility will be very valuable with working with publishers and editors if that ever comes to pass.

In my desire to bless as I have been blessed, I tried to offer constructive critique to others on challenge articles, but it became clear that not everyone wants to receive those type of comments. I've decided to back off on offering critiques unless asked--like in the critique circle.

Jan, this is such an important topic. Thank you for sharing these points. FaithWriters has been a safe place for me to learn to seek critique and accept constructive criticism. This community has prepared me to write to bless and not fear rejection.
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Re: Be a Better Writer--DEALING WITH NEGATIVE CRITIQUE

Post by glorybee » Sun Jul 27, 2014 9:35 pm

Graham and Gerald, thanks for your input.

Something else has occurred to me as I read through all of the responses here. I went back through some of my old entries--especially the ones that I remembered had generated some negative critique. For some of them, I thought I remembered that the critique had been VERY negative, or that I'd had several unenthusiastic reviews. It turns out that my memory of the critique was inaccurate, and that none of them were as bad as I remembered. Also, on re-reading some comments that had bothered me at the time, I see that I may have read them wrongly. Or in the moment, they bothered me a great deal, but on re-reading them, I could see their point.

So I guess I'd make a point #7: Put some time between yourself and the critique. When you look at it several weeks or months (or even years) later, you may see something helpful there that you didn't see before. Even if that's not the case, time may mitigate the hurt, and you'll be able to look at the critique with more objective eyes.
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Re: Be a Better Writer--DEALING WITH NEGATIVE CRITIQUE

Post by oursilverstrands » Sun Jul 27, 2014 10:26 pm

JayDavidKing wrote: I learned that even the most negative feedback can be constructive if you critique the critique
Oh, how I love this. Well said. The sharing of information, and ultimately a chance for mutually learning, is lost when we unfairly critique the "critiquer" rather than the critique. ( Tongue Twister) :roll:


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Re: Be a Better Writer--DEALING WITH NEGATIVE CRITIQUE

Post by oursilverstrands » Mon Jul 28, 2014 2:04 pm

Lillian wrote:Oh, how I love this. Well said. The sharing of information, and ultimately a chance for mutually learning, is lost when we unfairly critique the "critiquer" rather than the critique. ( Tongue Twister) :roll:
Huh?
It' s killing me. I REALLY must critique/edit the above.:lol:

Edited version. Drum..... roll......The sharing of information, and ultimately a chance for mutual learning, is lost when we unfairly critique the "critiquer."

There...I feel better. :superhappy

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I write even when I think I can't, because I must. :-)

I love to write. Nothing escapes the crush I have on the written word. I'm hooked on words!!

"Let words bewitch you. Scrutinze them, mull them, savor them, and in combination, until you see their subtle differences and the ways they tint each other." Francis Flaherty

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Re: Be a Better Writer--DEALING WITH NEGATIVE CRITIQUE

Post by glorybee » Mon Jul 28, 2014 2:19 pm

Just an FYI--you can edit your own posts within the post, without having to post a new one. Just click the "edit" button at the upper right of your post.
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Re: Be a Better Writer--DEALING WITH NEGATIVE CRITIQUE

Post by violin4jesus » Mon Jul 28, 2014 9:20 pm

I've always welcomed the critiques, even when it stung to have my deficiencies pointed out. But my image has always been too important to me, and I need that humility that comes from recognizing my weaknesses. I just do better the next time when I see what I'm doing wrong.

That said, one commenter once reacted very negatively to my character, which is kind of laughable in my opinion. He came from a VERY conservative, isolated Christian community, though, and I'm sure my wild, Western, and liberalism-influenced Christian perspective appeared to him as something to be avoided. His comment was basically how could the character be a Christian, and I based the character off several teenage Christians I knew. So even though it amused me, it did clue me into the variety of readers who browse this site.

I did have someone once complain in a comment, too, that I had put out a pretty lame piece of work and that everyone was just patting me on the back undeservedly. I found out later that he was going through a hard time and was bitter. I explained in my brick throwing for that week that I had typed it up really quickly just before the deadline, and it wasn't my best work. I'd have been cool with specifics about what made it seem lame to him, and since I knew I hadn't put a whole lot of effort in, I would welcome a critique to make it better. I wrote about a true-to-life experience, though, and most of the comments were reacting to that, rather than my writing, specifically.

I'd really like to know why a piece didn't place well when I put a ton of effort in and thought it really good. Some of my favorites never placed, and I don't know why. I'm sure it had more to do with the talent of the other entrants, but if there are things I'm not seeing which could have made the pieces better, I'm all ears. Like this one: End of the World. I'm thinking about taking my unranked favorites and making a separate book while expanding the stories.

That's my stream-of-consciousness on the topic. :wink:

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Re: Be a Better Writer--DEALING WITH NEGATIVE CRITIQUE

Post by glorybee » Mon Jul 28, 2014 9:37 pm

violin4jesus wrote:
I'd really like to know why a piece didn't place well when I put a ton of effort in and thought it really good. Some of my favorites never placed, and I don't know why. I'm sure it had more to do with the talent of the other entrants, but if there are things I'm not seeing which could have made the pieces better, I'm all ears.
That's the big question, isn't it? I have a piece here that's not only my favorite piece I've ever written for FW, it's the best thing I've ever written (in my opinion) and probably the best thing I ever WILL write. But it didn't register with the judges that week--not only did it not get an EC, it wasn't even in the top 40 (they were doing 40 back in those days). Big shrug--who knows?
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Re: Be a Better Writer--DEALING WITH NEGATIVE CRITIQUE

Post by GeraldShuler » Mon Jul 28, 2014 11:56 pm

glorybee wrote:
violin4jesus wrote: I have a piece here that's not only my favorite piece I've ever written for FW, it's the best thing I've ever written (in my opinion) and probably the best thing I ever WILL write. But it didn't register with the judges that week--not only did it not get an EC, it wasn't even in the top 40 (they were doing 40 back in those days). Big shrug--who knows?
That seems to be a universal reality with serious FW Challenge writers. Is there any chance one of your lessons might center on how to do a constructive critique and then let those who have a favorite entry that didn't place with the judges submit it as homework to be critiqued? I know I would love to learn how to give more constructive feedback. And I certainly wouldn't mind your "students" practicing on my work. I'm sure others would have something they would like critiqued as well.

Any chance?

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Re: Be a Better Writer--DEALING WITH NEGATIVE CRITIQUE

Post by oursilverstrands » Tue Jul 29, 2014 6:15 am

That seems to be a universal reality with serious FW Challenge writers. Is there any chance one of your lessons might center on how to do a constructive critique and then let those who have a favorite entry that didn't place with the judges submit it as homework to be critiqued? I know I would love to learn how to give more constructive feedback. And I certainly wouldn't mind your "students" practicing on my work. I'm sure others would have something they would like critiqued as well.
Great idea! Back in March I had suggested a similar idea ( a critique laboratory) where Faithwriters would learn how to critique/analyze articles by using Challenge articles with the permission of the author. Now, with the Critique Circle in full swing, that might be problematic. If Jan decides to do it, you can count on an article from me. :)

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I write even when I think I can't, because I must. :-)

I love to write. Nothing escapes the crush I have on the written word. I'm hooked on words!!

"Let words bewitch you. Scrutinze them, mull them, savor them, and in combination, until you see their subtle differences and the ways they tint each other." Francis Flaherty

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Re: Be a Better Writer--DEALING WITH NEGATIVE CRITIQUE

Post by violin4jesus » Tue Jul 29, 2014 8:18 am

She can start with mine because I already posted the link. :mrgreen:

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Re: Be a Better Writer--DEALING WITH NEGATIVE CRITIQUE

Post by glorybee » Tue Jul 29, 2014 9:26 am

I did a lesson on giving critique here:

http://www.faithwriters.com/Boards/phpB ... 67&t=38177

It had one of the lowest # of responses of any of these lessons. Every time I've given pointers for giving critique over the past 10 years, I get pretty much the same responses: I'm not qualified, I don't like it when people react negatively to my critique, I'm more of an encourager, I'm not qualified, I'm not qualified.

It's a matter of major frustration for me, as is the Critique Circle, which gets almost no business. I check it daily, and there are times when several days go by with no new entries, or with the only new entries being additional chapters of books that I've already critiqued.
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Re: Be a Better Writer--DEALING WITH NEGATIVE CRITIQUE

Post by oursilverstrands » Tue Jul 29, 2014 3:36 pm

I don't like it when people react negatively to my critique...
I just want to add a qualifier to my post about my response to negative reactions to my critiques. When the adverse response focuses on the substance of the critique, I have no problem accepting that, when it done without personal attack. Unfortunately, this has not always been the case. And that's where I retreat.

Jan, I don't want to override your decision (I do understand), but when a writer voluntarily submits an article for review they automatically accept the risk of an unfavorable comment or two. So I don't think your previous experiences should necessarily influence future decisions on new initiatives like the one JayDavidKing suggests. Authors of submitted articles would be your "students" and committed to following through (negative comments unequivocally accepted).

We could start off by applying the information on the link you provided to the article being critiqued (from theory to practice). :D


However, I do understand your "participation" frustration. Things have a way of fizzling out over time. :sleep

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I write even when I think I can't, because I must. :-)

I love to write. Nothing escapes the crush I have on the written word. I'm hooked on words!!

"Let words bewitch you. Scrutinze them, mull them, savor them, and in combination, until you see their subtle differences and the ways they tint each other." Francis Flaherty

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Re: Be a Better Writer--DEALING WITH NEGATIVE CRITIQUE

Post by glorybee » Tue Jul 29, 2014 3:41 pm

As you said--this is something that you've already set up. Perhaps you can leave a link for that forum to get people to send pieces for critique there, if they want their critique to be seen publically. Otherwise, I highly recommend the Critique Circle. If more people were to submit pieces of their writing there, they would learn what a critique looks like by receiving critiques.
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Re: Be a Better Writer--DEALING WITH NEGATIVE CRITIQUE

Post by oursilverstrands » Tue Jul 29, 2014 3:56 pm

As you said--this is something that you've already set up
Was just an idea... never materialized.

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I write even when I think I can't, because I must. :-)

I love to write. Nothing escapes the crush I have on the written word. I'm hooked on words!!

"Let words bewitch you. Scrutinze them, mull them, savor them, and in combination, until you see their subtle differences and the ways they tint each other." Francis Flaherty

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Re: Be a Better Writer--DEALING WITH NEGATIVE CRITIQUE

Post by Come forth » Tue Jul 29, 2014 7:25 pm

I think the status quo is changing as far as giving and receiving critiques is concerned.

I received an email from a friend regarding the comments made on one of my entries and this is a quote "I don't think it was the usual sugar and spice and all things nice".

I've noticed that more people are giving constructive comments on entries than used to be the case. Of course, this increases the risk of inappropriate comments, but sadly that is a fact of life. But, and it's a big but, even this lesson came out of a desire to deal with constructive comments rather than ignore them or just live in the hurt they can bring. And well done, Diane Bowman, for bringing it up.

I think, and of course that also means I can be wrong, that the intensive discussion that was generated for awhile on these forums has changed our expectations slightly. We now know we will probably receive a constructive comment or two and that they will help us grow.

The critique group didn't keep going, but it did achieve its purpose and things are improving. Maybe this time, such a lesson would get more traction. At least three or four people have they'd join in, and so would I. This is one lesson I would be compelled to make time for.

Blessings, Graham.
May we all get eyes to see and ears to hear,
A Revelation of His Word, crystal clear.
Admitting our need to be drawn in,
Less of self, more of Him.

My prayer for us all.
God bless us with the Revelation of His Word, Graham
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