Badly Dressed Criticism

If people don’t like being criticised, why do they circulate their work for criticism?

When I’ve written something I always give it to my husband to read.  I do this partly because he’s closest to me, but mostly because I trust his opinion, because he’ll never shy away from telling me something is bad.  He does this with clothes too by the way.  There have been times when I’ve put on something I think look goods, but he’ll soon tell me if it doesn’t because he doesn’t want others to think badly of me, and he does the same with my writing.

I appreciate a tough review,  I want my reviewers to be nitpicking, because I know if I put something out to a wider audience, there will be people out there ready to tear it to shreds.  Much better that it gets torn apart where I still have the opportunity to re-write than after it’s in print.

This doesn’t mean I don’t get upset about bad comments, sometimes I do, but as long as I know that it is aimed at improving my work, I’ll take it on the chin.  Of course I don’t always agree with criticisms either, sometimes the commenter has missed the point, sometimes they haven’t seen the fuller picture and sometimes they are just plain wrong.  But I always listen because a lot of the time, they are right and they do have a point.

So I do the same with I critique other people’s work.  I will pick up on little details that don’t fit.  I will say if the dialog is out of place with the setting and what/when the people are.  I do this because it has helped me when it has been done to me.  For example, I have a story called Unclear Triangle, when I wrote it I thought I was just writing everyday English speech.  But my husband was quick to point out that actually there were a lot of Americanisms in there, so I built that into the storyline and it gave me an unexpected extra background story and more colour to my characters.

Unclear Triangle was started about fifteen years ago and in the second chapter I talk about wanting high speed camera film, this week I put it up for criticism with the local writers circle and it was pointed out that with modern digital cameras, hardly anyone uses film any more.  So either I have to explain why high speed film is being used by that character, or I have to take that idea out to fit with the modern era.

I also reviewed three other stories at the circle, and clearly my comments were taken as being me ripping into people.

All in all, I was rather disappointed at this week’s weak criticism, it was less helpful than I was hoping for.  I didn’t go to be patted on the back.  I don’t need everyone to say they ‘liked it’, if everyone likes it, I won’t have done my job right.  I want to be better than that.  People shouldn’t like everything, not everything is likeable to everyone.  Universally liked means universally bland.  When it comes to writing, it should move you, you should feel something.  Love it or hate it, have a reaction.

So, I wondered, I went to a writers circle to make me a better writer, why do other people go?


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