Most of us have writing groups but, we get in a comfort zone with them. They are our friends, our confidants, and we like to
spend time with them. Let’s be honest, writers like feeling like they’re not alone. Writers are a strange brew who like to be alone and understood at the same time. We love to feel like others understand our weird idiosyncrasies and even welcome them.
What we really need to get out of that comfortable place to get real feedback others. We need honest and helpful feedback and not from people who are worried about giving you warm fuzzies. Sometimes friends work but usually they don’t. It’s important to get feedback from a mixed group of people—people who you trust will be honest with you.
I’m not talking about the idiotic morons on Goodreads, Amazon, or some other site leaving you an evil trashing of your reputation. I’m talking about you seeking others to critique your work because YOU want it. Betas readers, editors, and people in the business who are willing to help you.
So, how do we take these honest critiques from our acquaintances as positive experiences? Easy, we understand when others take the time to give feedback; we need to look it honestly and as a gift. It’s easier sometimes to accept hard feedback from those we aren’t as close to. Than those who we see week to week.
On a personal level, I’ve been receiving editor notes and beta readers notes this past week. Most of the things I need to work on I already knew to some extent, and others I hadn’t seen at all. The information is some amazing to ponder. We all miss things and these helpful little gift givers are fantastic at pointing out our flaws.
Our dangers are always discouragement. Sometimes it’s easy to feel like a project is defeating you instead of you defeating the project. Anything worthwhile is going to be hard. So if you think some honest feedback is going to break you then you might need to pull up your big kid panties and suck it up. You aren’t going to improve without some good direction. Be ready to work.
We all hope to be doing something right and we all do otherwise we wouldn’t enjoy writing. People who critique your work should also point out things that are working well. If they don’t have anything nice to say then you shouldn’t trust the critique. What we need to understand with critiques, are that they’re not there to destroy us as people, but help mold us. Being honest is a key part of the process.
I wanted some direction on a project. I made the choice to pay out of my own pocket for an editor to do just that. I felt like the money was worth it. Not because I suck, but because I love the concept of the project and I wanted help. Honest help. I’m not saying that everyone needs to do what I did. But, for me it was the right thing to do.
There are two ways writers can take critique. Ignore it and stay stagnant or welcome it as a special gift. It’s your choice how you take it and it’s a slap in the face to ignore critiques as time goes on. People won’t want to help you if you don’t start listening. Just as gifts go, we don’t always like what’s in the box but we smile and think about what the gift really means. It was still given as a gift and we need to take it as such.
I had one person who wanted critiques from me last year and I sent them for months. Chapter by chapter. After working with this person for months I found all they wanted from me was to tell them how great they were. They didn’t want to listen to anything I had to say to improve the work. That’s tough. It makes the critiquer feel like they’re wasting their own time.
So, remember to listen to those who take time to help you. You don’t need to take everything critiquers say as law, but be open to what others have to say and welcome the help. It’s only going to help you and your writing.