How to Receive Critique
Follows: Giving Critique
Giving critique is only half the battle, because you also need to be able to receive it well. That is, honestly, one of the hardest things to learn as a writer. We tend to pour our hearts and souls into our writing and having someone come along and point out its flaws can hurt. But if you can receive critique well it will vastly improve your writing.
Keep bias out of it
Your positive bias towards your own work has no place when receiving critique. It doesn’t matter what you think about the writing that’s being looked at or how much you put into that piece: if people are saying that something isn’t working then it probably isn’t. You need to keep your own feelings and bias off the table; it’s the only way that you’ll be able to grow. Unfortunately, that is easier said than done. I know some writers that tell themselves that it isn’t their work that’s being read to distance themselves. Others are able to see it as a way to become a better writer. Find whatever works best for you, but stay objective.
Stick to the point
It’s very easy, when somebody points out something that they didn’t think worked, to defend it. Often, when doing this, you’ll be inclined to reference things that aren’t on the page. Either something that happened prior or will happen later, or a character’s backstory to explain things. If these things aren’t written down then they aren’t relevant. Nothing is relevant other than what is on the page. Stick to what’s there.
It’s easy to argue the point with someone. Don’t do that. It doesn’t matter if you agree or not with them and what they’ve said, because you need to respect their opinion. That’s not to say that you have to do what everyone says. Just because someone says that something didn’t work doesn’t mean that you have to change it. It’s your writing and it’s your right to do with it as you see fit. That doesn’t mean that you have to argue with the person, though. Just take it, say thank you and move on.
This is perhaps the most important part of receiving feedback. You need to listen to what people are saying. Whether you agree with them or not, you still need to listen. Firstly, you don’t want to be rude; secondly and most importantly, you may not agree but you should still try and see it from their perspective. They may be right about it.
If you disagree with a point that’s been made, by all means speak up and open it up for a bit of further discussion. Some of the most constructive feedback I’ve ever received has come from a discussion after somebody’s made a point that I didn’t agree with. You can bounce ideas off each other and come out with something that, potentially, you as the writer are happy with and the other person, as a reader, would be happy with.
But, more than that, you need to be honest with yourself. If something isn’t working properly, you will know. Admit it to yourself so that you can fix it.
Receiving critique is a hard skill to master but it is one of the most important things that you can ever learn. If in doubt, just listen and take notes, then wait a day or two before going over them. Things always look different afterwards.
© 2017 David Chitty
Available under the Thanet Writers Education Policy
David Chitty was born and raised in Thanet in the 90s. He devotes most of his energies to writing fantasy fiction novels.