Monday, October 1, 2012

The Critique Conundrum

Most writers know that an important part of writing and improving your story and your craft is to give and receive critiques. It is impossible to spot every single issue with our own writing because we are too close to it. So we enlist others to help identify issues and in return we read their work and suggest places that need some improvement. This is great because not only are we able to polish our own work but we are also helping others and learning while doing it. Sounds like a great deal right?

So why do I always feel like a GIANT hypocrite when I critique?

It's so easy for me to spot issues in other people's writing but when I sit down and look at my own work I'm completely blind to to the same problems. It's sort of like the mother with the ugly child. Everyone knows the kid is ugly but the mother is in love. Even though in most cases it's not about looks, as writers, our work is like a child to us and we develop an unconditional love for it. Our work can do no wrong! But that's the problem, we as parents of a story need to accept that our writing can always be better. People aren't perfect and neither are stories. In fact, I don't think you can find a published book out there that doesn't have a mistake.

Which brings me back to my original conundrum, why do I feel like a horrible person when I spot something in my critique partners writing that I manage to do all the time and ignore? I may have a horribly guilty conscience, but this goes way beyond that. I feel guilty because I AM GUILTY!

Luckily, acknowledgement of the issue is the first step to recovery. Every time I have the realization that I may do the very thing I'm noting in someone's manuscript, I rush back to mine and make a note. FIX THIS.... NOW! (yes I yell at myself to fix things, no I'm not crazy, the voices made me do it!) So proof yet again that critiquing is an extremely valuable endeavor in helping us discover our own faults through the works of others. Was there ever any doubt?

So how about all of you out there around the interwebz? Do you have similar experiences when you critique or am I just crazy? On second thought don't answer that last bit.


  1. I feel a bit the same way. Often, I remind myself that I'm doing this to help them, not hurt them. I want them to succeed. And I hope they feel the same way when they critique for me... that they're wanting to see me succeed too... :)

    And yes, I often see mistakes in my work as I critique seems to help me learn how to self-edit.

    So, no. You're not crazy... just a great critiquer. :)
    ~ Julie

    1. Thanks! You're a great critique buddy too! :)

  2. I find myself looking at things when I critique and saying "don't do that" because it is something I KNOW I do I must never do it wrong. Then someone points out how wrong it is.

    So no, you're not crazy, but it is difficult to apply the same lens to our own work because we have filters we cannot remove.

    One way I tried to do this on my MS was to change the font to something completely different (size and typeface). Now, it doesn't look like the same thing I have been writing for the past year and it makes it easier to find those errors that I find so easy to spot when I crit.

    So put away the guilty feelings. You aren't the only one.

    1. oo that's a great idea. I hadn't thought about changing the font and type so it looks different. I may have to try that :)

  3. Learning to self-edit with confidence is a skill that comes from teachers. If the teacher isn't confident and plainspoken, neither are the students when asked to make suggestions about other authors' work.

    1. That's great advice! I feel like I can say I've really mastered material when I'm able to teach others. So recognizing issues with others work also helps me recognize it in my own and try to avoid it.