Monday, December 12, 2016

How to Approach Tough Critique Notes

Criticism, even when it’s constructive, can hurt. If you’re getting the comments from someone you don’t feel understands (or is really reading) your pages, it can get frustrating as well as painful.

Over the years, I’ve developed a sneaky way to deal with tough critique notes. It’s called avoidance.

That’s probably not what you were expecting. Some writers will tell you to jump right in. Listen to the notes (if they’re being given in person). Talk to your readers, get all the answers. Figure things out right then and there.


The toughest critique notes—you’ll know them by the sound your soul makes as it rips in two—deserve to be shut in a drawer until they soften up a bit. It’s okay to move on. Forget how messed up Chapter 10 is, and go on to Chapter 11. But when you finally decide you need to tackle those problems, head on, here’s one system you could use:

  1. Finish off the easy fixes first. Did someone forget to put on pants, or did no one trip over the unconscious guard in the doorway? Skim for the things that will take a few seconds to improve.
  2. Second, aim for those loophole-type issues that made you facepalm and say, “I can’t believe I missed that.” These, like the low-hanging fruit of No. 1, will make you feel pretty good about cleaning things up.
  3. Third, take a sip of your favorite beverage, stuff your face with you favorite dessert, and then re-read those tough notes.
  4. After you’ve read them, go watch a half-hour show on Netflix. Trust me.
  5. Eat more dessert.
  6. Map out your plan of attack and decimate those difficult critique notes like the little pieces of trash they are. Show them who’s boss. Rip your chapter to shreds and use band-aids to put it back together. What the heck? Why not use duct tape. That stuff fixes everything. And when you’ve finally beaten your pages back into shape, sit back…relax…and eat more dessert. 

Michelle's current Netflix show of choice is The Office. 

1 comment:

  1. Upon reflection, I now realize the final creative writing class I took (1985) was all about critiquing. I lacked the maturity to understand and withstand the dissection of my stories. Now I am emotionally and intellectually prepared for critiquing. Alas, fate has a cruel twist. There are no local writing groups, other than one for published authors. I’m all dressed up and no place to go. I guess that is a better state to be in rather than the opposite, especially with this wind chill.

    For now, I'll practice with the dessert part first.