Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Kicking Your Inner Donkey

Critiques are a fabulous thing for writers, and though they can hurt, they obviously bring a lot to the table when done well. And yet, every writer also knows that your book is your book. You don't have to listen to your crit partners. You aren't obligated to make every change they suggest.

But to me, that doesn't mean you don't have to listen to any of it. Critiques sting. It's a fact. Even when nicely worded, it's still someone point out the flaws of something you've poured yourself into. And that's okay. It's allowed to sting, you're allowed to lick your wounds for a little. But I don't think you're allowed to keep licking those wounds and I am very much from the belief that why ask for a crit if you don't really want the crit?

One of the biggest writers need to be able to do is learn to take critiques. To be able to step back and see and understand why things are being pointed out. And even more, really, really think about where that person is coming from. Do they read a lot more of that genre than you do? Maybe they are your best source, because they likely know the current trends better than you. Have they had personal experience with some of the aspects of your book? Then they aren't talking just to talk.

There is a very big difference in wanting to keep something in your manuscript because you, the author, honestly think that's how it should be and can back it up, and keeping it there just because you like it that way. Does it make something seem out of character? Does it push the confines of your chosen genre just a little too much? Is it just not working for your beta readers? Then maybe they do have a point, and while it's going to stink, maybe you should let that bit go.

Because an honestly good crit partner is never going to be out to hurt you. They want to help you. Want to make you better. But if you just won't listen, then what good are they? Cheerleaders are your family and friends. The people who better you are the ones who aren't afraid to tell you when you have too many dialogue tags, or something doesn't flow, or gosh darn it a character just doesn't seem to have a purpose.

And while it is a clear red flag if more than one person make the same comment, having something come from only one person doesn't automatically invalidate it, even if you don't want to hear it. When your other readers are saying it's great, that doesn't instantly mean it really is great. Maybe they just aren't the readers for you, or maybe they don't care as much as they should to really tear it apart for you.

So open your mind and kick your inner donkey to embrace the crits. And look at every single comment, even if it's a ton, and really think about it. I bet, once the sting wears off, you'll start to see what they are talking about. And often times, I find that those unbiased readers are right.


Kari is a querying YA writer and book blogger who currently works a day job with a radiologist group and lives in Dallas. She enjoys badgering her dog Toby, meandering around the internet, and reading lots and lots of books. Currently juggling three manuscripts, she’s dreaming for the day she can stay at home and write full time, preferably with a charming boy to cook and clean. You can find her at http://agoodaddiction.blogspot.com/.


  1. Great post! Totally agree, there is a fine line. I always say in the end you have to go with your gut ;o) Love the comic. Ha ha ha!

  2. Wonderful post, Kari. Critiquing is such a difficult task, you don't want to hurt the writers feelings, but if you care enough, then you should tell them exactly what you think with a spoonful of sugar. Thanks, for reminding us to be accepting and kind! :D