Wednesday, May 16, 2012

A Critique Is a Gift - It Contains Choices and Possibilities

“A Critique Is a Gift-It Contains Choices and Possibilities” by Joan Y. Edwards

A critique is a gift. It contains choices and possibilities for you to consider. Not – YOU HAVE TO BELIEVE THIS AND DO THIS OR ELSE your story will not survive. Use your critiques to empower you to improve your manuscript and take it to a higher level.

Sometimes you don’t ask the person who critiques your work enough questions. If you can get them to interact with you back and forth after the critique, it would be helpful. You as a writer are brave. Ask questions. Many times you are lucky to have gotten the critique and there’s no way of communicating with that person again. Having the right thoughts going through your mind when you’re reading your critique will help you accept it as the gift it is and use it to your advantage.

Don’t be afraid of what a critique says. You’re afraid probably because you’ve received countless rejections. Hundreds of rejections that stack up from the floor to the ceiling. This may cause you to doubt yourself as a writer. You may believe rejection means you are not a good writer. Actually, rejection doesn’t mean anything about your writing except that the person reading it didn’t have a passion for what you wrote like you do. It didn’t “call” them.”

I challenge you to change your thinking. Accept in your mind that it’s all right if they like it. And it’s all right if they don’t like it. Once you get to that point, you’re able to really listen to what they are saying. As long as you like your story and believe it will be published, and you’ve visualized it in its final form with cover and binding and people purchasing it. You’ll see that a critique is either your pathway to growth or the pathway to giving up. It’s your choice.

There is another very real possibility. It could be that the person who critiqued your work likes your work and is trying to help you make it better. Or they missed part of your plan for your story. They don’t understand parts of your plot. If possible, ask them questions.

Ask questions. Suppose 3 different people tell you to start at three different places in your story.

If someone tells you that you’re starting your story at the wrong place, ask them to tell you more.

  1. Where do you think it should start and why?
  2. Why do you think I wrote this story? What did you learn from it?
  3. Is there a better place to start the story? What is it? Why?
  4. Is the emotion missing?
  5. Do I give action, reaction, and dialogue for each scene?
  6. Give me possible what ifs for my story.

  • What if your main character did this?
  • What if the setting was in a different place, like _______.
  • If such and such happened, what would be the new set of chain reactions for the main character? If the main character does this, then the villain would do what?
  • What if the main character’s problem was even more difficult, steeper, harder for him to handle, like ______________?

Before you use any of the information in a critique, make sure you agree 100 per cent with any changes you make. Make those changes you agree with as quickly as you can. Send it out. Submit it again.

If there are parts of the critique you don’t agree with, you have two choices – delete them and never think about them again or let the manuscript hibernate in a drawer or in a folder in your computer for 1-4 weeks-no longer than that. Then take it out and read the critique again. Read your manuscript again with new eyes. Pretend this is the first time you’ve ever read it. Pretend you’re a potential buyer of your book in a store. You open it up to the first page. You read it. What do you think? If you still are not 100 per cent sure you want to use the questionable advice in this critique. Let it go. Delete it. Say a prayer. Relax. Believe in your manuscript. It will be published. You will know the changes to make. Studying the craft books that are in this area will help. Trust yourself and your story.

Accept in your mind that your beginning might be the best or another beginning might be best. Either is okay with you in your mind. Now allow yourself to choose the right place to start your story. You are the writer of this story. Believe that you can choose the right place. Other people’s opinions are possibilities. Other people’s opinions are choices. They are not facts. They are opinions. They give you something you never thought about. They give you possibilities. What a gift! Rejoice! Remember it’s your choice, your story. Believe that these critiques are not going to stop you from reaching your goal. They are steps to make your story better. To get it in top-notch shape for publication.

Be happy and rejoice with every critique you receive. Delete any ideas and suggestions that you don’t agree with 100 per cent after you’ve studied it and given good consideration of the possibilities given. It’s your story. You are the author. You will decide great things for your story. Now revise your manuscript with high energy and a good feeling and thankfulness for the critique.

Summarizing above:

Receive the critique.

Use what you agree with 100 per cent right away. Change the manuscript and submit again.

Put the questionable advice and the manuscript in a drawer. Wait from 1-4 weeks. Then read the critique and the manuscript again with new eyes. Make a decision. Use the advice or delete it. Then go forward.

Believe in your manuscript. Believe in you and your story. Accept the critique as a gift.


  1. Joan,
    It's lovely to think of a critique as a gift. It may not be what we wanted to hear, but it is our choice whether to cherish the words, trash them, or put them away for a while. Sometimes it's hard to say "thank you" when the critique seems worse than an item from the dreaded gift list. Accepted in the right spirit; however, critiques makes us stronger writers.

    1. Dear Linda,
      Thanks for writing. You are right, accepted in the right spirit, critiques make us stronger writers. With experience and wisdom, we know which ideas to use and which ones to disregard.
      Celebrate you and your encouragement to other writers today.

      Never Give Up
      Joan Y. Edwards

  2. OOps...critiques make us stronger writers.

  3. Critiques are a vital part of an artist's career, as well. Receiving honest critiques, not just praise, help an artist to grow and get better. If an artist can't accept critiques, they shouldn't be artists.

    1. Dear Aidana,
      Thanks for writing. You are right. Honest critiques do help us grow and get better.
      Do something to celebrate your artistic talents today!
      Never Give Up
      Joan Y. Edwards

  4. Joan, great post. You are right on about this. A cooling off period is a good thing.

    I recognize that some things push my buttons (not always what an impartial observer might expect - I've discovered I'm far more likely to go up in flames if someone questions whether I've used the right verb tense than when they suggest I start my story with scene 2. When that happens, you're right, the best thing to do is take some time to calm down.

    1. Dear Margaret,
      Thanks for your compliment. You are right, some things push our buttons more than others. We can let some things slide down our sleeves and agitate us, and others roll off our sleeves with little impact. When this happens, know that you are normal. Everybody has weak spots. Giving ourselves cooling off time is a good idea. When we are not emotionally upset, we can think clearly. Our instincts will then lead us to decide whether to use any or all of the ideas presented with calmness and confidence.
      I wish you great success with all of your writing.
      Never Give Up
      Joan Y. Edwards

  5. Sorry I'm just commenting. Good article, Joan.

  6. Dear Vivian,
    You have been busy. I know that. It is fine and dandy. I appreciate hearing from you. I knew that when you had time to catch your breath, you would leave a comment.
    Celebrate you and all you do to help writers!
    Never Give Up
    Joan Y. Edwards