Tips on Receiving Critique, by V

Ahhh, Critique. Just the word makes your blood frost a little, doesn't it?
It's one of the hardest things writers endure, but it can also be the most rewarding. Yesterday Donna gave us a humorous and insightful look at the kinds of critique partners you might come across. Today, I'm going to spin this around and point the focus on how to make the most of your critique.
Here's what's worked for me:
PLAN AHEAD - Have your pages/materials ready. Put some thought into the problems you think you see in the work. Line up questions you might want to ask ahead of time. Your critique partners are (hopefully) giving you their undivided focus during that time. Be respectful of that. Be ready. Number your pages. Put your name on the top. Be ready. Make it as easy as possible for your critique partners to jump right in.
PRACTICE THE ART OF LISTENING - Many critique groups have a "no questions-no talking" policy, where you have to withhold your comments on the feedback until the end. I'm mixed on this one. I like to address questions as they come up. But the spirit of the rule is a good one. Don't be argumentative. Don't interrupt. Listen. Your critique partners have every right to have an opinion--that's why you are there, to hear it--so put your listening ears on. It's the best thing you can do for your work.
TAKE DETAILED NOTES - This is my favorite tip. I practically transcribe what people say about my work. This has two main pluses:
1) I'm usually a little distracted/nervous/excited about reading my work and that tends to mess with my focus a bit. By writing things down, I'm forced to get right back in and LISTEN.
2) And I need a drum roll here, because if you take away anything from this post, it should be this--making notes gives you a chance to revisit the critique later. Guys, I can't tell you how many times my reaction to a comment has been, "What? That's a preposterous statement!" (I say this to myself, of course.) But then... BUT THEN... a day or two later, as I'm looking through my notebook, I sort of go, "Hmmm," and then a week or a month or even months afterward I might find myself saying, "Yeah. She had it right." (Yo, Lorin! Yes, I'm talking about you!) So write it down. Please, write it down.
HAVE AN ENTRANCE/EXIT STRATEGY - This applies to your mood, specifically. Or your writing mo-jo. When I have time, I like to jot down some thoughts on how I'm feeling about the work BEFORE I go into critique sessions, and then I do this again afterward. Again, writing it down makes it clearer to me. I can reflect on how the critique struck me. How it settles over time. What points I felt strongly about going in vs. going out. All useful stuff to know. What you're striving for, I think, is as clear a picture as you can have of your writing strengths and weaknesses, not just the problem with that one scene's opening. Be in it for the long run. Learn your writing patterns.
BE GRATEFUL - Like I said above, your critique partners are giving you their time. You might not love what they tell you, but if they did their job and gave you their honest feedback in a respectful manner, suck it up and be thankful.
So, in summary, be ready, listen, writing things down, and say thank you!


Tee hee. I'm just surprised that you've ever found any of my suggestions PREPOSTEROUS. ;-)

Great article and good advice, Veronica! I find that my clients and students tend to resist hardest what they know to be absolutely true for fear of having to really dig back into a work. But it ALWAYS pays off, as YOU have so beautifully demonstrated!

Great advice from a classy writer. I would add that a digital recorder can be your best friend, reminding you of the good things that were said instead of only the criticisms, which tend to be the things one writes down. ;)

Would love you guys to allow name and url id in your comments section...

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Preposterously brilliant, is what I meant Lorin. I don't know why that last comment deleted. Now it looks like I said something and changed my mind. I didn't. I just made a typo spelling preposterously. Anyway. I wouldn't be anywhere without ya~!

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