I just finished reading and critiquing a full manuscript. I was really honored that this person asked and truly I think the work has merit, but now that I’ve returned the manuscript I’m a little worried I didn’t couch my language to be a little more uplifting. Maybe I gave too much criticism and didn’t say enough nice things. Maybe I could have softened my criticisms. I’m not very sensitive, a result of having older siblings who relentlessly tortured me my entire life until I moved out. I suppose I can thank them for my thick skin. I don’t bruise easy.

That said, I would never want someone to rip me apart in such a way to make me feel there is no hope. Honesty is key in good critiques, but I don’t believe in harshness.

Maybe I can improve my critique skills.

With that in mind what’s the most effective criticism someone has given you and why do you think it was so effective? It can be for something other than writing. Do you prefer to be ripped to shreds? A harsh slap in the face? Or do you need a hug to go with the punch? What’s your philosophy on giving criticism?


4 comments

  1. As the person who wrote the manuscript in question, I just want to say that your critique was neither too harsh nor too soft, Liesl. No worries:)

    It’s easier to focus on the problem areas, especially when you’re critiquing a full manuscript, because those are the things the writer needs to fix. On the flip side, if you antagonize the writer and/or never point out ANYTHING positive, she’ll just get defensive and probably won’t listen to the valid points you make.

    Critiquing is a balancing act, but it’s a skill every writer needs to have. Every writer needs to be able to critique his or her own work, and sometimes it’s easier to learn how to spot the problem areas in someone else’s manuscript than in your own.

    (I’m planning to send you an e-mail today with a few more thoughts about my specific manuscript, Liesl, so more to come!)

    • RosieC

    • August 20, 2010

    • 4:37 pm

    Well, first, it sounds like you did a fine job according to Krista.

    I think it’s a balancing act. There’s never going to be anything out there that’s so perfect it can’t take something constructive, and nothing so awful that there’s nothing good to say about it. A good critique handles both. Now, if it’s typos, word-choice, or awkward sentences, I don’t care so much if the constructive criticism isn’t balanced. Those are definitely things that need to be pointed out, and they’re neither good nor bad, ultimately.

    Imho, it’s when comments like “I hate your MC” or “I don’t get X’s motivation” or “Nothing happens for 50 pages” come through that they need to be balanced by the more positive comments. It’s the macro issues that are more likely to be demotivating, and so they need the counterbalance of “I love your climax scene” or “You did a really great job developing Y” or “Why the *bleep* did you only give me one chapter!?!”

    Anyway, that’s my philosophy. I end the ramble here 🙂

    • Jolene

    • August 21, 2010

    • 12:53 am

    A brutal knife folllowed by chocolate…

    No, no. I want honest, straight forward criticism but you HAVE to tell me what you liked. Writing makes me bipolar anyways – give me both sides.

  2. Very interesting, I have also written a blog post about How to Give Criticism, see what you think.

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