I have been part of a writing group for over ten years now, and during this time, I have published a novel, dozens of articles, and several short stories. My writing group has been instrumental in honing my skills and improving my writing by providing valid critiques and even line edits.
Through this process, I learned how to critique other people’s work, especially fiction. I made a lot of mistakes, and I haven’t always been a good feedback giver.
Here are some of my tips on how to gracefully critique other writers’ work:
- Always start with the positive. Mention the things that you enjoyed the most about the work. If it’s a chapter from a novel in progress, say things along the line of “I enjoyed the humor” or “This chapter read very quickly.”
- Dive slowly into the critique. Writers put a lot of blood, sweat, and tears into their work, so measure your words. You can start your review by mentioning the things that didn’t work for you. Make it more about you and how you absorbed the art, rather than the writer and what they did and didn’t do.
- Don’t make generic, broad statements like “You have cartoonish characters” or “Your language is too flowery.”
- Don’t nitpick and go on a rant about grammar and spacing.
- Write down your critique and Email it to them. You will do them a favor as they would want to go back to your notes when they are revising.
Remember that no writer is an island. You need other writers as much as they need you. Critique with kindness, and do unto others as you would have them do unto you.
Photo by Michael Burrows from Pexels
If you have always wanted to write the next great American novel, or a best-selling memoir, or even a marketing blog a la Seth Godin, then stop talking about “wanting” and start doing. “Someday” is right now.
Here are my quick tips to get you started:
- Pick a specific time everyday to write and stick with it. Morning is ideal.
- Inspiration is a myth. Start writing and ideas with follow.
- “Amateurs sit and wait for inspiration, the rest of us just get up and go to work.” – Stephen King.
- Create a system to capture your ideas like Apple Notes, Notion or Google Keep.
“Your mind is for having ideas, not holding them.” – David Allen, author of Getting Things Done.
- Read, Read, Read.
“If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.” – Stephen King.
- Find an editor: A friend, a colleague a fellow author. Two pairs of eyes are better than one.
What are yo you waiting for? Get to work.
*Photo credit: Lukas Blazek
Last month was a hard month for me. I received unexpected, unwelcome news that left me doubting my skills. A writing project that I had been working on for a year just fell through, taking a major toll on my confidence and sense of self-worth. I don’t have the energy to get into the details, but what happened, in a nutshell, was that editor and I had different views and we parted ways.
For a writer, many might argue that’s this is part of the process, that rejections and disappointment are only one step of a long, hard journey.
I hear you, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t hurt, because it does. A lot.
After I licked my wounds, I sought solace in my team of therapists: my books.
The book You are Writer (So start acting like one) by Jeff Goins resonated with me. It was exactly what I needed to hear at that moment of my life.
“No guide or set of tools can prepare you for the rejection you will face, the criticism you will endure, or the pain you will experience. Because you will. You will get rejected.”
A 2011 blog post by marketing guru and entrepreneur Seth Gothin, titled “Reject the tyranny of being picked: pick yourself” really hit the nail on the head. He says:
“Amanda Hocking is making a million dollars a year publishing her own work to the Kindle. No publisher.
Rebecca Black has reached more than 15,000,000 listeners, like it or not, without a record label.Once you reject that impulse and realize that no one is going to select you–that Prince Charming has chosen another house–then you can actually get to work.”
He ends this masterpiece of a blog by saying:
No one is going to pick you. Pick yourself.
You can also hear Seth Godin talking about picking yourself here:
This was exactly what I needed when I was hitting a low point last month.
I realized that I was waiting to be picked, by a major publisher or a major newspaper, or a major media network, and I’m done with that. I’m done with waiting for Prince Charming. I’m writing and producing and self-publishing. The sky is the limit. Chasing the gatekeeper is a thing of the past.
I’m picking myself. I’m going to be writing more, producing more content, and sharing my thoughts on various available platforms for anyone to read. Jeff Gothin agrees with this idea, he says
“You can create the life every writer dreams of: never having to write a proposal or query letter again. Never having to pitch; never having to compromise. Wouldn’t that be great? I’m here to tell you it’s possible. I’m also here to tell you it takes hard work and smart work and patience.”
Does that mean that I’m going to stop pitching? No, not necessarily. I will still pitch ideas for publications that I might think are a good fit for my content, but being picked by them is merely a side outcome, it’s not the ultimate goal. Not being chosen by them is no longer going to keep me up at night.
Ladies and gentlemen, I’m here declaring that I’m picking myself, and it feels amazing. I’m more fired up and excited about the future to come. A flood of ideas are flowing through my brain, and I’m having a hard time capturing them all.
I’m reinvigorated. I’m no longer dreading the rejection letters. I am a writer and I’m acting like one. I am picking myself. Pick yourself, too!