How Not to be an Annoying Critic

People who create things, whether it be art, stories, or music, like to put their stuff out there and receive feedback. And since the days of the Internet, people have been all too happy to give that feedback, but brainlessly and without explanation. There are few places and people from which you can receive constructive criticism these days and bad critiquers are only fainting the well.

This is a combined list of pet peeves and general no no’s for critique etiquette.

  • Do not hang onto the same few overused “writer’s rules” and point them out in every single piece of criticism you give. Why? Because it is annoying and takes from your credibility as a critical reader. If you can’t treat each story like an individual piece of fiction and you feel the need to “mark with the same rubric” every time, I fear I may have to pass on your feedback. You’re not seeing my story and you’re certainly not thinking critically.
  • Do not write the story for someone. This is tricky ground because it’s helpful to give examples of re-phrased lines or better descriptions, but don’t presume that you can write better than someone because of it. Keep the “Mommy knows best” attitude away from it.
  • Do not bring your own beliefs or morals into it. The author will immediately think less of your critique because you seem more interested in judging the author than helping to improve the story. Also, you sound less professional. What kind of reader feels the need to judge a writer halfway through their story? One who doesn’t fully understand the concept of “fiction”.
  • Do not think that fluffy compliments and vague criticisms constitute a critique. Things like “I like this.” with no explanation as to why can be irritating to the author looking to improve. Even worse, things like “You’re telling too much and not showing enough” are vague criticisms without any information to validate the claims. If I don’t see a because in there, it makes it harder to take that person seriously. Most critiques are accurate in pointing out issues such as that, but sometimes the claims look as if they’ve been thrown around, willy nilly. You don’t want to sound like you don’t know what you’re doing or that you’re taking any old nitpick and throwing it in sans reasonable proof.

I admit, these were all do nots; a crossover between a rant and a how to. Oh well, next time I’ll address the rest of it in a post that goes along the lines of How to Write a Helpful Critique or something.

How to Take Criticism Properly

If you’re in the business of any medium of art, you probably have to deal with people commenting on your work, whether it’s good or bad. There’s plenty of different kinds of critics, and plenty of people who categorize them into areas of right, wrong and rude. Something equally important and often ignored is how you handle the feedback yourself. Here are some notes on keeping your cool and staying thankful for whatever critiques you get.

Things to Remember When Reading Critiques

  • As long as it states why, you can’t discredit their feedback.
  • Someone spent their own time reading your work in an attempt to help you. It’s best not to be ungrateful.
  • You’re allowed to disagree with them, but you’re winning nothing by attacking their opinion.
  • Take only what suggestions you want and/or agree with. You’ll get nowhere if you try to please everyone.
  • Give it time. All revising requires a break period that lets you look at your story in a new, unbiased light.

I’m sure I’ll be adding points later, I hope you get the idea. Up next, in the near future, “How to Write a Critique Properly”.