“Could you read my story and tell me what you think?”
Unless I know the writer well, know he or she truly wants to hear what I think, I dread hearing those words. Too often the person asking this question doesn’t really want to hear what I think. He or she wants to hear how wonderful the story is.
And I understand. When I write something, I don’t ask others for their opinion unless I think what I’ve written is good. I don’t want to hear my prose is trite, that the scene is boring, or I have my facts all wrong. In my case, I’ve now been in the business long enough to have had my work torn to pieces (usually rightfully) by others. I’ve sent mss off to agents or editors, and received enough rejections and critiques to realize not everyone loves my stories or style. When I ask for a critique (or review), I know I may not like what I hear, but that it’s important to hear another person’s opinion.
It’s the new writers who make me cringe.
Just this week I watched a writer read a short chapter aloud to a group, and then slowly wilt as members of the group brought up the mistakes he’d made, both in the writing and in the research. We had a break soon after he read, and he disappeared. (Went home, I assume, or to the local bar). All of the comments had been right on; nevertheless I felt sorry for the writer.
I love receiving a critique from people whose opinions I respect. I don’t have to agree with everyone’s opinion, but I’m more than willing to listen and learn. It might be I didn’t explain something well enough. Or maybe I’ve repeated myself too often. Maybe I got carried away with the act of writing and forgot the story. A good critique is a valuable asset, but only if the writer is ready for it.
The worse critique is one from someone who wants to tear down the writer either because of jealousy or a personal vendetta. No one needs that.
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