Writing Critiques Without Tears

James Garside


Matthew Henry

In criticism of critics

There are three types of comment on the internet: 1) “Yes, you’re right.” 2) “No, you’re wrong.” And 3) “Blurble blurble blurble.”

When it comes to comments about your writing things are not as clear-cut.

Some people give great critiques. Others make vague anecdotal comments, talk about their own work, or else just pat you on the back for a story you KNOW is complete shit and want to improve.

Critiquing can be helpful, if done well, and is a skill in itself. Everyone that gives or receives critiques should think about how helpful the critique is.

‘Constructive Criticism’ that is neither constructive or critical is about as much use as [insert witty useless object here].

Can the comment be boiled down to:

  1. Yes, it’s good
  2. No, it’s bad
  3. Blurble blurble blurble

If not then, so long as it’s about the writing and not the writer, it may be worthy of your attention.

The thing about critics…

How many film critics have made a film?

How many art critics can paint?

How many book reviewers have written books that got published?

Forget critics.

It’s ok to ask for critical feedback but pick your critics carefully.

Your family and friends may love or loathe you but rarely enough to be brutally honest.

You want feedback from readers and writers.

You want feedback from your target audience.

You want honest feedback that you can use.

‘Constructive Criticism’ that’s neither constructive or critical is about as much use as [insert witty useless object here].

You need people that want you to succeed.

That want your work to be as good as it possibly can be.

That have the tools to help.

A good reader will give you honest feedback on what worked for them and what didn’t.

A good writer will give you pointers on how to knock your story into shape.

That doesn’t mean it’s ok to savage your work.

Just because you invited someone to the party doesn’t meant it’s ok for them to get drunk and shit on your rug.

Never let your parents read your work

Whenever I let my parents read my work the conversation gooes like this:

“So Mam, what did you think?”

“It was good”

“What did you like about it?”

“It was good. I enjoyed it.”

“Yeah, but which bit?”

“All of it.”

“But what did you think it was about?”

“I don’t know. Stuff.”

“But what happened in it?”

“Things. With people.”

gives up

“So Dad, what did you think?”

“Did you get paid?”

end of conversation

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NCTJ-qualified British independent journalist, author, and travel writer.


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