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Tips for Having Your Writing Critiqued

Having your writing critiqued can be a challenge. So here’s some tips from a successful writing group on how to get the most from criticism.

Having your writing critiqued can be a shock. It can be a reality check. It can even be disheartening.

However, if you want to get your work published, you’re going to have to send it to agents and editors at some point and deal with their professional criticism.

Much better to have your work constructively critiqued first by a friendly and supportive group like Manchester Speculative Fiction

We’ve been around a while now, so we know from experience how best to approach having your writing critiqued.

Constructive Response to Critiques

Authors’ responses to critiques go three ways: defensive, constructive and defeatist.

  • Defensive: “Well, look, obviously you just didn’t get it. My story went over your heads because I’m a genius and you’re all idiots!”
  • Constructive: “Hey, thanks, lots of great ideas there. Now I’ll go away and edit the story to make it even better. Cheers!”
  • Defeatist: “I knew my story was awful. I’m such a terrible writer. I should just give up. I’ll never make it. You’ve shattered my dreams of being an author!”

Which of those responses is likely to result in a better story?

Giving up won’t help, and refusing to listen won’t get anyone very far, either.

So, we can safely say that the constructive approach is best. But how can we cultivate that constructive attitude?

Our Tips for Having Your Writing Critiqued

Some people find it hard to stay constructive whilst their work is being critiqued, so here are some helpful tips to remember:

Mindset

  • Nothing is perfect. That includes your writing.
    • If it’s perfect already, why are you submitting it to a writing group at all? Better to save time and submit it to the Nobel Prize Committee immediately.
  • It’s a writing critique group. However good your work is, the entire point is to strengthen it even further.
  • Criticism of your writing is not criticism of you.
    • Just because your story is a hot mess doesn’t mean… no, hang on, this isn’t coming out right…
    • Seriously, no one is criticising you. They’re just trying to help you.

Before Having Your Writing Critiqued

  • Before you submit your piece, do your absolute best to remove as many typos and grammatical mistakes from it as possible, so they don’t distract people from the bigger picture.
  • Format your work so it’s easily readable.

During the Critique Session

  • Remember, it’s your story.
    • You can never please everyone. People like different types of story, and no matter how good your work is, inevitably it just won’t work for some people.
    • But if several people pick up the same issue with your work, it’s worth paying attention.
    • It’s up to you how you respond. You’re in control.
  • Get to know what the other group members are like.
    • Some people notice grammar mistakes, others are nitpickers. Some obsess over characters and others focus on plot.
    • If you know the other group members, then you can probably read through your piece, predict what they’ll say, and so fix the issues before you even submit your piece.
  • Make notes.
    • You’ll need them later—otherwise you’ll forget what people said.

After Having Your Writing Critiqued

  • Remember, the goal is to respond constructively.
  • Don’t just dismiss the critique—be open-minded.
  • Thinking “They just didn’t get it.” is a trap.
    • Sure, people might have misunderstood your intentions, but that probably means you need to make them clearer.
  • Don’t give up. Don’t lose confidence in your work or yourself.
    • People have critiqued your work to help you improve it, not to destroy it or to hurt you.
  • The constructive thing to do is leave the piece for a couple of weeks, and then go back to the critiques, and edit the piece to address the issues.

Having Your Writing Critiqued: Conclusion

Remember, it’s your story. When you submit it for critique, people respond, attempting to help you improve it. It’s up to you how you edit the story in response. If everyone works together constructively, then your story will be better for it, and that’s the goal.

Questions?

If you have questions about having your writing critiqued, or you’d like to come along to our Manchester writing group, please contact us.

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By Graeme Shimmin

Graeme Shimmin has been a member of the Manchester Speculative Fiction Writing Group since 2012 and edited its first two anthologies. His novels have won, or been listed for, multiple prizes including the Terry Pratchett Prize, YouWriteOn Book of the Year and Arthur C. Clarke Award.