How To Handle Critique

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Karen Ball and Erin Taylor Young Write from the Deep Podcast How to Handle Critique

41 – How To Handle Critique

Few careers open you up to criticism and critique as being a writer. Everyone seems to have an opinion on how you could have written your book better. But the hard truth is that if you’re a writer, you can’t escape critiques and edits. Nor should you! Quality critiques and edits are your friends, helping you to strengthen your craft and share your message with excellence. So how do we learn to love critiques? Well, join us to learn exactly that!

Show Notes

Critique is an unavoidable occurrence in the publishing industry. Maybe you’re at a conference and you have an appointment with an editor, an agent, or a mentor, or maybe you’re just meeting with your critique group. Or for those of you who are published, you know those edits are coming!

While we’d all love to respond prayerfully, thoughtfully, and with a teachable heart and a willingness to work, we often…don’t. Instead, we can feel:

  • Discouraged
  • Resentful
  • Frustrated
  • Angry
  • Or we get caught up in feeding on affirmation

What hinders us from the positive, healthy attitude we want?

  • Fear – We don’t think we can do it. We worry that we don’t have the skills, etc.
  • Arrogance – We think we can do it without studying and learning the craft

What we need instead is a realignment of our understanding.

Writing is hard! Rewriting is hard! Give yourself a limited amount of time to be frustrated. Then take a hard look at the suggestions. Take the time to think, to pray, to get counsel. Read craft books. Visit reputable writing websites. Allow yourself the time you need to come to the solutions that can make your work better. It’s okay to not know how to fix something right away. What can unfortunately happen is that we panic because we don’t have the answers right now. But instead, we can learn to trust the process and trust that God is intimately involved and will give us the skills we need when we need them.

Make sure that you’re getting critique from people who know what they’re talking about, and think in terms of correction and redirection.

Three steps you can take to help you today

Remember this isn’t about you!

This is about the message God has given you, and the responsibility you have to share that with excellence.  2 Timothy 2:15 says, “Work hard so you can present yourself to God and receive His approval. Be a good worker, one who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly explains the word of truth.”

Recognize that critiques and editing are “iron sharpening iron.”

It’s as much about refining you as refining your craft, about teaching you to keep your focus on God and the task He’s given you, not about being right. “Open rebuke is better than love carefully concealed. Faithful are the wounds of a friend, but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful.” Proverbs 27:4-5

Remember that this is your story.

Critiques and editing are helpful, and can strengthen your craft. But if you have a sense, deep within, that what you’re being told isn’t how God wants you to share the story, hold to what God says. I’m not talking about craft so much but about the core of the message and story. Ask God to give you wisdom and discernment. “Dear friends, do not believe everyone who claims to speak by the Spirit. You must test them to see if the spirit they have comes from God.” 1 John 4:1

Final Thoughts

Critiques, editing, those are simply a part of the journey when God gives you the task to be a writer. They’re not meant to discourage, but to help and strengthen you. Ready yourself to receive them with the right heart and mindset. Listen, evaluate, and then work hard to refine and improve. And never forget that you’ve already done the hardest part of all—you wrote a book! It’s on the page, so to speak. Now it’s time to dig in and make it even stronger. Not to make yourself look good, but to ensure you are sharing the message God has given you with as much power and excellence as possible.

 

We want to hear from you!

Have you ever had a difficult critique?
What helped you handle it well?

 

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Critique is not the enemy! Learn to appreciate—and even enjoy—it!

8 comments

  1. Linda says:

    I have received some valuable help from critique partners and learned a lot when critiquing other work. You’re right about it being hard to hear, but I found it much more helpful than those who never seemed to find anything wrong. Those critiques always made me feel like they hadn’t really read the work at all. I am currently without a critique partner and really feeling the strain on my writing, both productive wise and in gaining valuable insight. Hope to find a pal soon. Thanks, Ladies.

  2. Karen Ball says:

    Linda, are you a member of ACFW? You may be able to find your critique partner there. if not, are you planning to attend any writers’ conferences this year? If you are, why not start now asking God to lead you to that critique partner? Just a few thoughts.

    God’s best to you.

  3. Thank you and amen to, “Faithful are the wounds of a critiquer.” I love your podcasts, Karen and Erin. I’ve experienced both blessings and bruises from critiques. Anne Lamott (in Bird By Bird) says regarding critiques, “You don’t want to spend your time around people who make you hold your breath.”
    Out of a dozen or so critiques, I’ve only had to hold my breath once (there wasn’t a drop of positive to balance things out). But the other ones helped me tremendously because they pulled better work out of me. Two short stories I wrote have just gone through several rounds of edits by two gracious editors for a small Canadian anthology coming out this year, and–ironically–I found the editor who made the most red marks and suggestions the most helpful; she also gave positive feedback too. I wish she was my forever editor since she inspired me to roll up my sleeves and “write from the deep.” 🙂 I agree being teachable is a must for writers.
    Blessings ~ Wendy

    • Erin Taylor Young says:

      Wendy, I love your experience of how the most editorial red marks turned out to be the best critique! Interesting how great writing comes from the teamwork of both faithful writers and faithful editors. : )

  4. Patti Lee says:

    Thank you for this. I’ve heard this subject addressed many times over the years, but you did an excellent job of presenting it with deep truths, yet leaving me feeling encouraged, not chastised. I’ll say it again: I love Write from the Deep, it is valuable. Write on!

  5. Kirsten Panachyda says:

    Oh how I want to be one of the humble, teachable ones! Thank you for giving us the courage to keep learning and trying and trusting.

    • Erin Taylor Young says:

      Kirsten, I think you echo the prayer of all of us. Thank God for His never ending patience with us!
      But for what it’s worth, I think you are one of those teachable, humble ones. Keep on.

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