Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Critique or Glowing Praise?

I am a member of several critique groups. I trust my crit partners and nothing I write goes anywhere without their wise eyes passing across it. One of my CPs is a fantastic plotter, something I'm not, so her feedback is essential to tightening my plots. Other CPs have their own areas of expertise, like punctuation or voice, or catching those moments where the character POV slips.

I love these people and know my work is better for their eyes.

But there are always those people in critique groups who don't really want feedback, just glowing praise of their genius. The ones who rather than accepting the critique, and acknowledging that maybe their work isn't flawless, will argue about why they're right, why the choice they made was the right one.

These people frustrate me. Why put your work up for critique if you don't actually want to improve your work? Just write for yourself and enjoy your own voiceless ramblings through plots that lack tension and characters whose behavior elicits no sympathy. Don't waste my time if you don't want my opinion.

I take a lot of time over my critiques. I read chapters several times through, giving every line and turn of phrase careful consideration. If my opinion isn't wanted, why did you put the book up for critique? If you're not willing to admit there are flaws in your work, why are you asking for help with it?

If you want glowing praise, give your chapters to your mother instead.

Do you have people like that in your critique groups?


  1. I have one reader who basically only ever praises my writing. Which is great to hear but doesn't help me make my writing better.

  2. I'm going to assume I know who you're talking about and hope that it's not me ;-) I've been pondering this same thing recently...based a lot on a response I saw to a critique in "a forum". And then realized a lot of this person's responses were similar. (So yeah, I guess I do have someone like that in my group).

    I used to do a lot of the same in my first critique group. I think some of it has to do with the different levels of writing that the people are at. I've heard it said that critique partners should be at about the same writing level and I'm starting more and more to believe that and I suspect you may have encountered someone who's a few steps behind.

    I love glowing praise, I really do. It's why I have one of the beta readers I do. But in the end, I know it doesn't help me improve. When I feel I'm too fragile to get the critique help I really need, that's when it's time to take a step back, not take it out on the reader.

  3. I think there's always going to be some people like that in a group. I use online critique groups and most of those sorts of people soon fix up (or disappear) when the get six or seven critiques making the same point to them.

    And as Nicole says, those who play it safe by giving to general platitudes to everyone aren't much use to anyone.


  4. My husband is an artist, and I am a writer. We have learned to give each other honest feedback, so that we will each be putting our best work into the world. Honest critique is a gift.

  5. I hate it when people argue on every point of my crit. I'm like - ignore what you don't like - you don't have to fight with me about it.

    BUT, that being said, I love it when people ask questions b/c sometimes I'm confused, and when they tell me what they're TRYING to do, I can help.

    I don't have any groups. I'm WAY picky about who I send stuff to.

  6. I love praise as much as the next person, but I know I'm not perfect, and I know plenty of sets of eyes make for a better MS.

    And Lori, of course it's not you I was talking about. I'm in a number of different groups, and there's one or two of these in every group, I think... At least in my experience. And I think I was one of these in my first group. Got knocked out of me pretty quick.

    Jolene, yes, questions are the best. I know my stories so well, it's easy to forget other people don't and might be confused by a reference to something I never referenced...

    Sounds like you have a good thing going there, Melissa. Keep it up!

  7. Ooo, I totally agree. I would much rather give and receive a tough critique than one that says only good things but doesn't help me become a better writer!

    The Warm Fuzzies Blogfest is officially starting on Oct. 24th if you're still interested :)

  8. Of course it's great when someone enjoys your work, but as you say the whole point of being critiqued is so you can grow and improve as a writer.
    I've recently taken the plunge to have strangers critique my work, and it's hard but I'm learning so much. And I'm also learning how to be a good CP in return.
    It's one of my biggest lessons of 2011.

  9. Nope. I would not work with someone like that, and I can't imagine how frustrating it would be.