I’ve talked before about dealing with feedback on your writing. I wanted to pedal back and talk about something a bit similar today: how to know if you’re ready to have your writing critiqued. It can be a big step if you’re new and haven’t shown your work to anyone before. It can still be hard for seasoned writers to receive developmental feedback. So, how do you know if you’re ready? Well, you should make sure you’re prepared – here are my tips on how!
Write purely for fun – and to practice!
Before you even consider having your writing critiqued, write just to enjoy it. To get a feel for your own style, what you like and dislike, what works for you. When you’re just starting out in particular, it’s so important to just enjoy the process and take the pressure off so you don’t get hung up on writing “rules” and whether you’re doing things right. Have fun. Make mistakes. Grow and develop in your own way before you let anyone else in.
Learn as much as you can by yourself
Writing is a skill we can learn about and improve, if we’re open to it. There are so many resources available to teach you about the mechanics of writing and storytelling, from books to podcasts and articles. Take responsibility for your own craft and your own learning. Being resistant to learning – or to change – is one of the main reasons people struggle with critique. So if you can teach yourself about writing and how to tell a good story, you’ll recognise why someone is saying “show, don’t tell” in a critique. Self-learning is a constant process for a writer – it never really stops – but it’s good to have a solid foundation before you dive into being critiqued.
Get a support group
By this I don’t necessarily mean a writing critique group – just people who understand you and what you’re trying to achieve. It could just be a group of writer friends, or the writing community online. Having a support group is great because you can learn from each other and share tricks of the trade, and when you are ready to be critiqued, you’ll have a few willing beta readers you know and trust. Beta readers and critique partners are a great option, especially if you don’t fancy working with a professional editor or mentor, or don’t have the budget/means to do so.
Train yourself not to be defensive
There’s nothing wrong with disagreeing with a critique partner/beta reader/editor, or whoever you eventually choose to critique your work. Much of writing is subjective, and we all have different viewpoints and ideas. The issue arises when your snap response is to be defensive and argumentative (maybe you want to cry as well; we’ve all been there). All writers get this – it’s how you respond to it that’s key. A few good rules of thumb are: take some time to let the feedback sink in. Don’t reply right away, because there’s a chance it’ll be an emotional response, not a rational one. Sometimes, a point that makes you upset initially may turn out to be something that does need fixing. It’s often the things that make us emotional that ring true, even if we don’t realise right away.
When you’re ready to respond, reply calmly and professionally. If you still don’t agree with a point, thank them for their time anyway. Don’t feel the need to explain or justify yourself – it’s your book. You don’t have to use a piece of feedback, although it’s always a good idea to think about why it came up in the first place.
Learning to respond to feedback in this way will help prepare you for a career in writing if you want one: editors and agents love writers who are easy to work with, professional, and able to deal with feedback and revisions, and usually these are the writers who succeed.
So those are my tips for preparing yourself for a writing critique. Having your writing critiqued isn’t easy and you should be proud of yourself for any step you take towards that! Let me know if you have any others (aside from drowning yourself in chocolate) – I’d love to hear them.
If you feel ready for a professional critique of your work, I offer manuscript assessment services to authors.