Thursday, October 23, 2008

Critiquers, what's the worse comment you ever received?

Over on the ACFW course loop, we're learning a lot about critique groups/partners. It reminded me of my very first lesson of what NOT to comment on with respect to a beginner's work.

As a rule, I believe I give constructive criticism with a dose of praise in each of the critiques I do. I view my job as a critiquer to be fair and honest within the confines of my own subjectivity. That end part is the key, I believe, to helping those new to critiquing. If you go into the rounds of critiquing with nothing else than the knowledge that subjectivity is everywhere in this craft, you'll be so much more emotionally equipped to handle the comments coming your way. If your critique partner(s) are truly invested in helping you, then take their comments seriously, mull over even the ones you disagree with immediately to see if you can discover its merit on further thought, then alter your work according to your decisions.

Now, I don't know what the most hurtful comment that I've given has been because no one has scolded me for being malicious with their work yet. But I certainly know which one and only comment I received that stung bad, so bad that I sobbed over it (this happened very early on in my writing, I've developed a much thicker skin since then). For all you critiquers out there, do you have a comment to share to add to the "DO NOT INCLUDE (DNI)" list for new critiquers? I really think there should be such a listing, it would alleviate a whole lot of heartache for beginner writers.

I'll go first.

#1 DNI item: "You have no voice, or at best it's generic enough that I can't hear it."

You tell me, how does that help a writer develop their writerly voice? A writer's voice is something that develops over time, and is so complex, that commenting on the non-existence of it is futile, and seriously hurtful to a beginner. My suggestion, wait until you start 'hearing' his/her voice, and then comment on how lovely or unique it sounds. Save the voice thing for a praise since there isn't much a writer can do other than to keep writing and honing their craft to develop their voice anyway. Always think constructive when making comments on other's work.

Okay, it's your turn all you seasoned critiquers reading this. What would you add to the DNI (Do Not Include) list for critique etiquette? And for those who aren't yet involved a critique group, feel free to comment on what you would hope to get out of a critique partner(s) relationship.



63 days left to reflect and celebrate our Saviour's birth.

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