Everybody loves a good echo chamber. Who doesn’t want to be told how awesome and wonderful they are? It boosts the ego, justifies the hideous amounts of time spent crafting your tale, and allows you to state with pride, I am a writer.
Praise may be wonderful, but it won’t help you improve. And there is always room for improvement. Even the best authors out there are constantly honing their craft, adjusting to trends and ever-morphing language.
I’m involved in a critique group, and am halfway through my first full length novel. The praise I receive motivates me, shows me how much I’ve learned. But there are also the remarks I don’t want to hear. I’m not speaking of editing commentary. Authors are bound to make mistakes here and there. I fix what I can and leave the rest to my editor. But there are some mistakes an editor can’t fix, like character development.
A recent critique I received, however polite and constructive, nevertheless struck a nerve, affected me in a way I didn’t expect.
“Your characters are two dimensional.”
This hurt, because I thought I had put a lot of effort and research into my characters, their personalities and mannerisms. Maybe I did in my head, but I somehow failed to translate that to the page. It puts me back at square one. I needed to hear this observation, no matter how much I might deny it. That is what makes critiques so necessary. They provide an outside view capable of seeing flaws we as authors are too close to the work to notice.
If you are a writer of any level and any genre, I highly recommend getting involved in a critique group. Not only will they point out your need for an editor or glaring character flaws, but also issues with pacing, plot development, and if your work is maintaining interest.
A good critique partner or group is instrumental in your ability to produce the best work possible. But not all critiques are golden. Beware of vague or unhelpful remarks like, This sucks or I would write it this way. Such remarks are not constructive and won’t help you grow.
Ask for specifics. What about the writing made you lose interest? Do my characters seem like real people? Is the pacing consistent? Does the dialogue seem natural? Getting specific answers to specific questions will help you determine where your weak spots are and what needs a stronger focus.
And always make sure to be a good critique partner in return. If someone agrees to read your work, return the favor. Writers should help each other.
For more information on critique methods, what makes a good critique, and how to find critique partners, check the links below: