Can you take the Heat?

A good Critique hammers out the bumps in your manuscript!

If someone asks for a critique, or for you to go over their writing, should you?  Would you be kind or let ‘er rip and tell them what’s  not working for you? On the receiving end, how do you handle being Critiqued? Today, I read a  manuscript from an acquaintance, then related what I felt worked and what didn’t. Instantly I became public enemy #1.

In nicer words than those here, I pointed out a lack of tension causing the story to flag and my interest to wane. I tried for constructive criticism— because I want very much for my fellow writers to keep working at it and not give up– applauded parts that flowed to the concept of the tale; but mentioned disconnects between actions of the characters and the reader trying to comprehend the flow of the story. The key here is, what I took in was what the writer conveyed in their manuscript.

The writer decided I am too much of a novice to critique them and could not see the picture they conveyed. Au contraire; I was picturing Giovanni Ribisi, one of my favorite actors, in the Protagonist role, and I tried to see scenes in full realization as they stuttered past in my mind, Giovanni looking for direction. I presented a few suggestions that might improve the MS, but the writer rejected any alterations, fearing tidier segues would change it too much; if they introduced more  feeling of the place, tried to build a bit more on the characters, then it wouldn’t be their story anymore. Topping off the list of backpedaling the writer expressed they shouldn’t have to personally explain each scene for a reader to get it.

On the last gripe I agree. The writing itself should speak to me. Setting, conflict and resolution should convey to me, the Reader, what is happening in the story. Tension should keep me wanting to turn the pages to find out what happens next, and each scene should ease into the next instead of me flipping back and forth to find a connection; bringing to mind Giovanni: all apologetic, his character says, “I’m sorry, but can you point me to the nearest segue?”

I have come to the conclusion that some folks don’t really want a critique.  They want you to read their work and tell them it has points so well-formed they stab you in the eye while perusing the brilliance of their  DARLING bit of fluff, and now you must wear an eye patch and become a pirate, you are so blown by the wave of their stature.

Give me an effing break.  Better still, don’t ask for a critique if you can’t take the heat.

Here is my take on how to handle a Beta Reader‘s POV: Welcome the harsher voices, the gulls of Criticism if you will; their opinion is as valuable, perhaps more so, than the sweet voiced variety of Critique.

The best Authors and Writers, or at least my favorites, are happy to have people read and share their thoughts of the characters and settings and how these work with each scene.  Equally, they welcome the point where you fell asleep reading their  tale. This is because they want to kill that bit of needless fluff  to make it read better, and take their writing to the next level.  They crave, I crave (!) to know what interferes with the flow of the story, where the bogs are that suck away the action, when it is too candy coated and needs added complexity, or where the story has too much description and wants a good conversation between the prime characters, or even the comic relief to ease darkness, just a little, see?  A good Critique gives you possibilities.  

The best thing about encouraging your friends and acquaintances to read your work, to critique it, is that they are your first audience!  *applauds beloved Beta Readers* If you pay attention, really take their constructive criticisms to heart, you will discover that their eyes are invaluable, because they are not in your head. They are Joe Reader. If they get it, chances are your future audience will, too. If they are struggling to wrap their heads around a passage, perhaps you should revisit and make that concept clearer.

It is human nature to balk at criticism, but if we unplug from our initial negative reaction, we open ourselves to the Reader, gleaning that pearl of wisdom that makes our story have luster. So, leap into that boiling cauldron with a smile. Find some Readers to critique your work, then tell them to please, turn up the heat, you can take it. Your work will be better for it, and your naysayers will at the very least respect you for being able to swim in the deep end of the pool of magma.

Well folks, my manuscript calls…a great friend of mine red-inked the heck out of it…for which I thank her!  I’ll take the advice and change what needs tending, toss the rest…that, too is valuable. 🙂

Keep writing!

See You Around,

C.K. Garner

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About C.K. Garner: Blog Paper Scissor
Author of "Stealing Time" a steampunk YA short story. http://www.musapublishing.com "If you are a Dumps Monster, I swear by my pretty floral bonnet: I will end you."

9 Responses to Can you take the Heat?

  1. My heartfelt thanks to everyone who commented! This post gets a lot of attention, I think perhaps because those who are willing to go through the process of cutting and rewriting, can really see how much tighter the writing becomes through a good critiquing session.

  2. Thanks Sloan! Yep, it really makes a difference in the finished product between when someone else critiques my work, or if only my eyes have seen it for edits. More eyes are better!

  3. I’m late coming to the party, but glad I finally made it. C.K. your post is spot on. After fifteen books, I’m still grateful for my critique group and their red pens.:)

  4. Pingback: Confessions of a Suddenly Smiling Stepper:What stupid writing thing did your Beta Reader find this week? | Jennifer M Eaton

  5. Augustin says:

    Good morning from Germany,
    Again I read a valuable entry for me and my attitude towards writing and critisism. Thank you!
    The point is that many “writers” don´t always get, that the work they create and offer to the world isn´t anymore “their” work after it reached the hand of the reader. From that moment onwards, it won´t be ´him´ -the writer-, speaking about his piece, but the reader commenting on his lyrics.
    I personally am always about it and look forward how the waves I sent out through my text clashes to the thoughts of my reader. And even if it is constructive criticism, I mostly enjoy to hear it, because only then I know someone is reading my work, and more importantly, thinking about it. And that´s what I want to accomplish.
    And C.K. Garner (how should I address you?), I am sorry, I just saw that you subscribed to my ´sehpa´-blog. This blog was my first try and fail too. So since 6 months I write in another blog. -> http://frebellion.blogspot.com/
    If you want to subscribe, you´re welcome anytime.
    Kind regards
    Feyzanur Soysal

    +1

  6. Your blog is looking great. I’m sorry someone didn’t like your critique. I hope it wasn’t someone from TJs. That would make things awkward.

  7. Good morning from Germany,
    Again I read a valuable entry for me and my attitude towards writing and critisism. Thank you!
    The point is that many “writers” don´t always get, that the work they create and offer to the world isn´t anymore “their” work after it reached the hand of the reader. From that moment onwards, it won´t be ´him´ -the writer-, speaking about his piece, but the reader commenting on his lyrics.
    I personally am always about it and look forward how the waves I sent out through my text clashes to the thoughts of my reader. And even if it is constructive criticism, I mostly enjoy to hear it, because only then I know someone is reading my work, and more importantly, thinking about it. And that´s what I want to accomplish.
    And C.K. Garner (how should I address you?), I am sorry, I just saw that you subscribed to my ´sehpa´-blog. This blog was my first try and fail too. 🙂 So since 6 months I write in another blog. -> http://frebellion.blogspot.com/
    If you want to subscribe, you´re welcome anytime.
    Kind regards
    Feyzanur Soysal

  8. roxie says:

    I agree, don’t ask to be critiqued if you can’t take the feedback! Though some writers just want a pat on the back, many others desire honest comments and suggestions – 😉

  9. artfulhelix says:

    You make some very good points here. If you can’t take the heat get out of the kitchen. If we where, or some one else did for us, to say its wonderful don’t change a thing, gold on paper, when they really mean this is flat, this hole part isn’t needed, or why did that happen then we would put out a book no one can get to the end of. Red ink me I’m ready for you!

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