If someone asks for a critique, or for you to go over their writing, should you? Would you be kind or let ‘er rip and tell them what’s not working for you? On the receiving end, how do you handle being Critiqued? Today, I read a manuscript from an acquaintance, then related what I felt worked and what didn’t. Instantly I became public enemy #1.
In nicer words than those here, I pointed out a lack of tension causing the story to flag and my interest to wane. I tried for constructive criticism— because I want very much for my fellow writers to keep working at it and not give up– applauded parts that flowed to the concept of the tale; but mentioned disconnects between actions of the characters and the reader trying to comprehend the flow of the story. The key here is, what I took in was what the writer conveyed in their manuscript.
The writer decided I am too much of a novice to critique them and could not see the picture they conveyed. Au contraire; I was picturing Giovanni Ribisi, one of my favorite actors, in the Protagonist role, and I tried to see scenes in full realization as they stuttered past in my mind, Giovanni looking for direction. I presented a few suggestions that might improve the MS, but the writer rejected any alterations, fearing tidier segues would change it too much; if they introduced more feeling of the place, tried to build a bit more on the characters, then it wouldn’t be their story anymore. Topping off the list of backpedaling the writer expressed they shouldn’t have to personally explain each scene for a reader to get it.
On the last gripe I agree. The writing itself should speak to me. Setting, conflict and resolution should convey to me, the Reader, what is happening in the story. Tension should keep me wanting to turn the pages to find out what happens next, and each scene should ease into the next instead of me flipping back and forth to find a connection; bringing to mind Giovanni: all apologetic, his character says, “I’m sorry, but can you point me to the nearest segue?”
I have come to the conclusion that some folks don’t really want a critique. They want you to read their work and tell them it has points so well-formed they stab you in the eye while perusing the brilliance of their DARLING bit of fluff, and now you must wear an eye patch and become a pirate, you are so blown by the wave of their stature.
Give me an effing break. Better still, don’t ask for a critique if you can’t take the heat.
Here is my take on how to handle a Beta Reader‘s POV: Welcome the harsher voices, the gulls of Criticism if you will; their opinion is as valuable, perhaps more so, than the sweet voiced variety of Critique.
The best Authors and Writers, or at least my favorites, are happy to have people read and share their thoughts of the characters and settings and how these work with each scene. Equally, they welcome the point where you fell asleep reading their tale. This is because they want to kill that bit of needless fluff to make it read better, and take their writing to the next level. They crave, I crave (!) to know what interferes with the flow of the story, where the bogs are that suck away the action, when it is too candy coated and needs added complexity, or where the story has too much description and wants a good conversation between the prime characters, or even the comic relief to ease darkness, just a little, see? A good Critique gives you possibilities.
The best thing about encouraging your friends and acquaintances to read your work, to critique it, is that they are your first audience! *applauds beloved Beta Readers* If you pay attention, really take their constructive criticisms to heart, you will discover that their eyes are invaluable, because they are not in your head. They are Joe Reader. If they get it, chances are your future audience will, too. If they are struggling to wrap their heads around a passage, perhaps you should revisit and make that concept clearer.
It is human nature to balk at criticism, but if we unplug from our initial negative reaction, we open ourselves to the Reader, gleaning that pearl of wisdom that makes our story have luster. So, leap into that boiling cauldron with a smile. Find some Readers to critique your work, then tell them to please, turn up the heat, you can take it. Your work will be better for it, and your naysayers will at the very least respect you for being able to swim in the deep end of the pool of magma.
Well folks, my manuscript calls…a great friend of mine red-inked the heck out of it…for which I thank her! I’ll take the advice and change what needs tending, toss the rest…that, too is valuable. 🙂
See You Around,