X is for eXasperating

This entry is part 6 of 6 in the series bad advice

Surprisingly, not that many X words occurred to me 😉 .

I sometimes feel like I’ve received more than my fair share of bad advice on my writing. (This probably isn’t true, but it still feels that way.) From people who seemed to be half-reading what I wrote, and half just making crap up, to people who were obviously trying to teach me a lesson (which no one else who’d read it seemed to see), from those who were trying to remake my writing to sound like theirs to those who could tell me I was breaking writing “rules” without apparently understanding what the rules were for in the first place—and my personal fave, the person who killed off my killer in the opening scene—sprinkled among fabulous advice from insightful readers that has and continues to help me improve my writing, I’ve gotten an awesome sample of how not to be a critique partner.

Unfortunately, that doesn’t necessarily make it easier to 1.) tell good advice from the bad, or 2.) move on from well-intentioned but wrong-headed advice. Even when I have great, enthusiastic responses from critique partners to comfort me, some words still chafe.

Even more frustrating than the feedback is my tendency to dwell on it. When I’m faced with this, I try to tell myself a couple things:

  • Does this bother me because I agree with it on some level? Then how can I fix it?
  • This person isn’t omniscient. He might not even know what he’s talking about.
  • What does the majority say? Look over the feedback I’ve received from others to see if there’s anything directly addressing this issue.
  • What does my experience say? Does this advice work for me?

And then I go to my wall o’ praise: the spot where I’ve taped up pages of nice things people have said about my writing.

What do you think? How do you handle critiques or advice that just BUGS you?

Photo by Elyce Feliz

Series NavigationMoving on from bad advice

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6 thoughts on “X is for eXasperating”

  1. I find that I’m not good with giving advice on writing…as in, I don’t have nearly as much to say as other people do. I can be extremely nitpicky when it comes to grammar, etc., but as for overall concepts, general structure, not so much. I can point out when something confuses me, to flag it as a possible part that needs rewriting…but otherwise, I don’t consider myself a skilled critiquer 😛

  2. I’ve been really lucky in that my critique partners usually distinguish themselves between things they personally think vs things that are clearly a problem (and they actually know the difference!). I also often go by my personal response – do I want to throw the advice out the window or do I get excited about their recommendations. My experience has also been that when several people give the same advice that is an almost surefire way of knowing something in my story is off.

  3. I take it all with a grain of salt. Sometimes I try the things I feel deeply aren’t right just to make sure I’m not being too sensitive. It tends to led me to knowing I was right to trust my gut and I go back to the original but sometimes it helps me step out of my comfort zone. I do find it difficult to find a good critique partner.

  4. How does one find critique partners in the first place? I’ve been wondering that for a while. Lots of authors post about their experiences with critique groups, but I’ve never seen anyone say how they got started. I got nobody. 🙁

    1. I’ve found people to read my work among my RL friends, people I’ve met at writers’ conferences, and through online writers’ groups and blogs. I also know lots of people who’ve had success with meeting critique partners on forums. You might look at:

      http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/

      http://forums.nathanbransford.com/viewforum.php?f=16

      http://betweenfactandfiction.blogspot.com/2011/02/crit-partner-classifieds_07.html (Natalie also has a number of posts on finding CPs)

      Good luck!

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