Though we would love them to, things don’t always go swimmingly in critique partner relationships. Much like every other relationship on the planet, we encounter some problems, but hopefully nothing that can’t be solved. Here some common scenarios that may happen in critiquing relationships, along with some ideas on how to overcome the difficulties.
Problem 1 : You are not getting the feedback you want
Next time you communicate with your critique partner, describe to your partner exactly what you want in your feedback in detail. The more specific you are the better. Here is a list to give you some ideas of what you might want pointing out in your feedback.
Explain what the goal of having a critique partner is for you, and give as much context as possible. For example: “This is my first draft. I want basic feedback on the plot and tone” vs. “I want to submit my manuscript to agents next month, are there any glaring errors?”
As well as listing what you do want, also point out the things that you don’t want. If spelling and grammar is not important to you right now but character development and the plot is, be sure to make this clear.
Problem 2 : You are getting too much harsh and negative feedback from your partner
Sometimes we can take feedback a little too personally, even if we think we are ready to hear it. If you felt like the feedback you have received was overly harsh, take a break before re-reading it. Try to determine whether your CP is truly being unfairly critical, or whether you just weren’t ready for it. That’s okay too – if your goal of working with a critique partner is to build your confidence and to improve your writing, and not to hear all of your faults, then you just need to let your partner know. Remind them of your goals and again, state specifics on the kind of feedback you are looking for.
Is the harsh feedback intentionally so, or are they just unaware of how strong their tone and delivery is? Even great writers can be poor critiquers – it’s a skill that one has to learn and work at. Some people have no idea about how their delivery comes across. Perhaps you can help your critique partner to learn more effective and sensitive ways of delivering critique, by suggesting pointers such as these.
If however you have determined that the critiquer is just plain mean, then politely inform them that it isn’t working for you and walk away. This kind of critique can be damaging to your confidence and is not the sort of company we wish to keep at Ladies Who Critique. See problem 6 for more tips.
Problem 3 : Your CP takes your feedback personally and is defensive when you deliver your comments
It’s hard to hear less than swell feedback, even if we have actively sought it out. Your writing is your baby, and no one wants to hear that your baby’s face is a little flat or they should be walking by now – even if it’s true. Sometimes the truth hurts.
Hopefully all members of LWC know that critique is hard to hear, yet it is not a personal attack or anything to take to heart. It’s important to recognize this and accept it.
There are several ways to soften the blow – include lots of positives, make sure the tone in which you write your comments is soft and diplomatic, give her time to build up some resilience. It gets easier, with time, to accept criticism and see it as anything but a personal attack and in the meantime encourage her to go deep with her feedback on your work.
Problem 4 : You make many suggestions but your critique partner does not implement them!
There are several things that might be happening here.
a) They might feel overwhelmed from the critique, or might not know how to implement them.
It’s easy to feel overwhelmed from a critique and putting the changes into effect can be daunting. If you wish to spend the time and energy helping her do this, ask her if she needs more clarification, or whether a brainstorming session together would be useful. How to make the changes might be very clear to you but she might not be able to see the path so easily.
b) Your comments might try too hard to change her voice or vision and make it your own.
Remember that your comments are only suggestions and she has no obligation to put them into action. When critiquing, remember to avoid suggesting how you would write something unless there is a glaring problem.
c) You are not giving her the right kind of comments or critique.
Check in with her again about her vision and goals. Ask if she found the comments in your last critique valuable and if there is anything you could do better. The best kind of critiquing relationship is one where not only does your writing get stronger, but so do your critiquing skills and value to each other.
Problem 5 : Your CP is trying to change your voice or story
Just as we remind brides that it’s “their” day, I remind writers that it’s “their” story. Critique suggestions are just that – suggestions. However, it’s always good to hear a different angle or spin on things, even if at first it is overwhelming and upsetting.
Take suggestions with a pinch of salt, and get a second opinion if needs be. There is nothing to stop you from having more than one critique partner – in fact it’s very valuable and we recommend it. If you start to hear the same remarks over and over about your story, then perhaps there is room for improvement in these areas. It’s all subjective however – follow your instincts and let your partner know why you don’t want to implement their changes even though you respect their idea.
Problem 6: You received an insulting or rude critique
First, analyze why it is that you think this person is being insulting and rude. Did you accidentally upset them first by unintentionally delivering a harsh critique? Are they new at this critique business and unsure of how to deliver a good critique?
Or do they have issues than run deeper than that?
Some people have a bad day and take it out on others’ – this holds true in all areas of life, from bad customer service to an obnoxious colleague. Don’t tolerate it: forget it and move on. There are plenty more critique partners in the Ladies Who Critique sea!
If it’s really aggressive and offensive please inform us and we will look into removing membership privileges. See our terms and conditions of what will and will not be tolerated here.