Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Critique Happens

copyright 2011 by Ron Adams

Sometimes you write a book, publish a book, have people buy the book, and then realize…I can do better than that. So you write another book, figuring out along the way a lot of the errors you made the first time. And that book gets published, and people seem to like it and say nice things about your story.

Then the unusual happens, and someone gives you a do-over. I can’t tell you all how excited I was to give my first novel a second chance. So I sent it off to an editor, a real one this time, with the instructions to tear it up tear it down, and we’ll make it better. Does anyone remember the phrase, be careful what you wish for?

The critique I received started with all the things the editor liked – the characters, the relationships between them, the descriptions of the various settings, and even the humor interwoven in the story. The editor praised me for good grammar, good and appropriate spelling, and even for the mechanics of the way the story was set up. That was the first three paragraphs. Unfortunately, the e-mail was three pages long.

The rest of the critique centered around the flaws. Yep, two and a half pages of them. All of them were valid points, and I don’t have any real objections to the changes that were suggested. There were minor continuity issues, details that had to be ironed out. And then came the big suggestions. Those included re-writing the ending, and taking out half a dozen chapters written in third person while the rest of the story was written in first person narrative. Okay, I’ll admit, those stung a little, and I am currently working through the major issues. The point is, the critique was presented in a format that was designed not to be “critical”, but helpful in a way that would further the story, improve my writing, and be a stepping off point for growth and development in my craft.

We here at MB4 have recently taken to providing critiques to our readers, and I for one have read some very talented pieces so far. I wanted to share my experience with you all to let you know that even published writers have to learn to take positive and negative criticism, and that we all get through it. It is my hope you take advantage of the opportunity to have an impartial look taken at your writing, and look at it not as scorn or ridicule, but as an opportunity to improve and develop as a writer. Besides, it doesn’t hurt nearly as bad as you might think.


Kim Smith said...


Aaron Paul Lazar said...

Well said, Ron. Well said... And SO true!!!

Marta Stephens said...

Good post, Ron, and it's so true. The more we write, the greater our expectations and the less painful it is to receive a critique when it's constructively given.

It's great that you had what seems to have been a very positive experience.

Ron Adams said...

I've been very "lucky" to have received that kind of feedback on both some short stories under consideration for film and for the re-release of Lake Effect. A good critique, taken with a professional attitude, is really one of the best teaching tools we have as writers. I for one have learned a lot and hope to keep learning