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Writers v. Beta Readers: Critique Series Part 1

Author’s note: I have been wanting to write a bit more on the nature of critique and the relationship writers have with critics for some time now, but I have realized it will likely take more than one post in order to properly articulate all my feelings on the subject. As such, I will do a short series on critiques in the hopes that I will be able to fully map out my thoughts regarding this topical dance that is going on in today’s culture.

As a writer, I believe one of the most difficult things to do is actually share my work with other people. I know a lot of writers don’t feel the same way, but to me there’s something incredibly humbling about letting people evaluate something that is so close to you; something that has gestated in your mind so long that you feel as though you and It are One and inseparable.

While I still struggle with allowing people to lay eyeballs on my work, I have more or less resigned myself to the knowledge that if I want to improve, I have to open myself up to critique.

Apparently a lot of people don’t know that.

A lot of people.

Don’t get me wrong, I understand that not all critiques are valid (certain friends of mine will argue this point but there it is), but just because someone doesn’t like a certain element of your story, doesn’t mean they are “haters.”

And maybe if they don’t understand, as the writer, isn’t that kind of your fault for not explaining it better? Maybe?

I don’t know.

For a while, I thought the practice of becoming overly butthurt about the slightest suggestions were reserved for the novice or reluctant writers; people who didn’t really write that much and were completely new to the craft.

Apparently this bristly behavior towards any voices dissenting from the chorus of praise can be found in writers of any stripe: Fantasy writers, Romance writers, Mystery writers, etc.

I truly don’t understand why other writers give people their WIPs and then proceed to get overly butthurt when that person isn’t blown away by their artistic prowess. What is even the point of giving someone your work if you don’t want to get their genuine reaction?

Who wants a bunch of yes-men who lie to you and tell you you’re a genius in spite of the fact that your MC’s motivation doen’t make sense and you introduce, like, 3 plot threads that go absolutely nowhere?

As someone who is constantly looking to get better at writing, this behavior baffles me.

I know not all writers wish to go pro, but even if you don’t want to make money off your work WHAT IS THE POINT OF DOING ANYTHING IF NOT TO GET BETTER AT IT?!I If you were a knitter and all you managed to make was a massive yarn-knot, wouldn’t you want someone to tell you what you’re doing wrong? You wouldn’t be offended by a knitter more experienced than you gently steering you in the right direction, so why is writing different?

Yes, writing is a passion project, but it’s also a skill and skills need to be perfected through learning and adaptation.

While I realize writers who get overly offended by any critique probably aren’t going to take anything I say to heart, I wish to impart some helpful hints that I have learned to help the critiquing process be less strenuous.

Let it sit

From my experience, it can be difficult to tell whether or not a critique should be taken to heart when you are in the moment. Sometimes it is best for you to let the critique sit and mull it over. Allow the fresh wave of humiliation wash over you like a tide, but then wait for the waters to recede before you make any action. Don’t assume the person giving the critique is wrong, but don’t assume they are correct either. Be open minded and try to see their point of view.

Keep everything in perspective

While it is easy to see our work as extensions of us, it is important we realize our work isn’t us. People can like us and not like what we write. Or vice versa. Someone pointing out flaws in a story is not the same thing as pointing out flaws in you as a person. Your story can be changed, your writing can improve. Of course, some people will resort to personal attacks, but that’s how you know their opinion should likely be discounted.

Decide which is most important

There comes a time in your life as a writer where you must make a decision about what is more important: Your ego or the story.

Would you rather be “right” and prove all your “nay-sayers” wrong and write an inferior story all because you want to be Frank Sinatra and do it your way? Or would you rather swallow your pride, tidy up your messy fic and create something that is ultimately better? The choice is yours.

Unfortunately, there are writers so far up their own arses they would rather hurt their projects all out of spite for their detractors.

Their choice, I guess.

Personally, I would rather grown and make my stories the best they can be.

I think they deserve that.

Thanks for reading!

2 thoughts on “Writers v. Beta Readers: Critique Series Part 1”

  1. “Allow the fresh wave of humiliation to wash over you like a tide.” 😀

    I love that. “Allow the FRESH wave of humiliation.” Because you have certainly already felt humiliated in the writing process. Because that’s what it’s like.

    Liked by 1 person

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