Recently, a friend of mine posed the question: What’s the point of critiquing published works? It’s already published so it’s not like the author can rewrite it for a better review or something.
Personally, I don’t critique books that often unless the author is dead, or I have something positive to say about the novel.
I hope to publish a book one day and I don’t believe in making enemies unnecessarily (let’s pretend for my ego’s sake that some important publishing house reads my blog and gives a crap what I think). However, I enjoy reading the critiques of others because I believe they are beneficial to everyone, including the writer.
As my friend pointed out, the writer can’t recall the books that have already been distributed to the masses in order to make rewrites, so it would seem that telling them they screwed up after the fact is a bit pointless.
I would, nevertheless, argue that, while it can’t help the writer with their past work, it could provide some input into what they should avoid doing in future projects.
Criticism is how people grow as writers. Contrary to popular belief, very few debut novels become best-sellers. Most authors have to learn by seeing what an audience of strangers respond to positively as well as negatively. A friend’s view of a story may be colored by their perspective of the writer, whereas a critic usually has no idea what the author is like as a person and is more likely to judge the book solely on its performance.
Reading critiques on published works help unpublished authors as well. It’s beneficial to look at the mistakes or successes of predecessors and learn from them. In Stephen King’s memoir On Writing, he mentions an author of a book he read as a young adult that always used the word “zestfully.” Sometimes seeing that even professionals mess up can be encouraging to fledgling writers.
I don’t think I would be half the writer I am today if it weren’t for the millions of critics I’ve watched/read online as well as off. At least the ones that explain why something does or doesn’t work. There’s a difference between crapping on -or giving blind praise to-something and giving an actual critique over it.
There are good critics and bad critics, but I believe there’s something to be learned from them all. Regardless of your stance on a piece of literature, critiques make you think about a story more in depth than you might have otherwise.