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I've been creative writing all my life, though with various haitus(es) along the way. IFrom 2010 I started this blog and enjoyed sharing writing and other information with everyone. illness and bereavement supplied the more recent hiatus.

Wednesday, 15 September 2010

The Mechanics of Critiquing

You can picture the metaphor can’t you? The reviewer-mechanic who looks into the engine of your story, scratches his head, tuts and sighs before offering a verdict:
             “It’s not good. It’s going to need a lot of work and the cost of repair is prohibitive. You might as well scrap it and start again”. Oh and he adds “I’d say your driving was pretty atrocious!”

Now picture a different reviewer-mechanic, who makes encouraging noises. He smiles and says:
       “The engine block is pretty sound, as is the Carburettor and with a little oil on the Timing Gears and replacing the Manifolds it should run more smoothly. It'll be on the road in no time!”

Okay so I'm no mechanic and maybe, unlike me, you've not received the negative kind of criticism about your work? I hope you've only had the positive, constructive kind.

Creative writing, by its very nature, is incredibly exposing and ultimately drives the author into the path of criticism. Self doubt may follow if the feedback isn't suitably constructive. However, good feedback can be deliciously gratifying. 

Constructive reviewing makes all the difference between an author developing and improving through specific feedback couched in a positive delivery that doesn’t leave them on the edge of despair and ready to drive over the next available cliff.

I've recently had some really positive, constructive feedback that made my day. It made me ready for my next journey; ready to  travel to new horizons.
 So, may all of us receive constructive feedback every time! It's so much more fortifying, don't you think?


  1. An inspirational post, Madeleine. I've had several short stories critiqued and found them to be both positive and constructive, and I would encourage new writers to make use of the many free and paid services available. But do your research first. Get feedback on how thorough the critique is. I paid £10 for a critique that was advertised as taking ten days, but took six weeks and consisted of one small paragraph!

    My number one piece of advice with critiques is to listen and learn, but ultimately only make changes that you are happy with.

  2. Bless you Ellie. You offer some good advice/experience. I feel for you spending £10 on a rubbish, long awaited review. I've had free reviews that cut me to the core they were so unnecessarily bitter and venemous, while others were positive and supportive about the same piece of writing. Sometimes we have to develop rhino hides! While the good reviews provide a welcome salve ;O)

  3. So true! I hate getting generic feedback-- or completely negative feedback-- that does nothing to help me understand what works and what doesn't. I'm lucky to have an awesome critique group where everyone knows how to be constructive! Thanks for sharing. :)

  4. Hi Madeleine,
    What would you call this feedback, positive or negative:
    "We have read your manuscript with boundless delight. If we were to publish your paper, it would be impossible for us to publish any work of lower standard. And as it is unthinkable that in the next thousand years we shall see its equal, we are, to our regret, compelled to return your divine composition, and to beg you a thousand times to overlook our short sight and timidity.
    (from a Chinese economic journal)

    K:) (Katalin)

  5. Hi Shallee, Yes I've had some corkers that were quite unconscionably spiteful and personal, so getting kind, constructive advice is far more valuable. It kinda says something about the reviewer's personality too I guess! may all our future critiques be good ones ;O)

  6. I'm glad it wasn't you who received that rejection Katalin. Yes the irony is amusing and appalling at the same time as the sarcasm just drips off the words. To be on the receiving end of it is something else, though!:o0

  7. Hi Madeleine,

    thanks for stopping by my blog. I never thot I would need a Cp till I needed one desperately, one advice I have for people out there is to ignore the negative CPs are worth their weight in gold when you find the right ones.

  8. Hi Joanna, Yes i agree about critique partners, the good ones are worth their weight in gold. :O)

  9. My best crit came back with the last line "...if you don't agree with anything here, feel free to throw it in the round file..."

  10. Hi Carolyn, Hmmm, what a funny thing to say! Oh well I guess at least it doesn't sound spiteful! :O0


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