Why Criticism is Necessary to Produce Great Fiction

The article below from lifehack.org, reminded me about the importance of getting criticism about your work. In a few posts last week, I talked about showing your work too early and what that can do. However, at some point you have to put that work out there, and you must get serious critical feedback.

Why?

Because what you have written, no matter how much effort you’ve put into it, no matter how many revisions you’ve made, is wrong.

It’s wrong for so many reasons, but primarily it is wrong because only you have read it. You haven’t put it in front of anyone else to get their reaction. Even an experienced writer needs feedback on their work. Sometimes, the most experienced writers need even more feedback than the neophyte (usually because they’ve stopped listening to the feedback they are getting as a result of ego inflateous.

So, when you put your work out there, you have to be prepared for the worst. And when you get the worst, you should smile and nod and encourage even more nastiness to be heaped upon your newborn manuscript. The most virulent feedback is the sort that’s going to help you improve. Just remember that it’s feedback, not a personal attack. Take notes and learn.

16 Tips to Survive Brutal Criticism (and Ask for More) – lifehack.org

Don’t Justify – In the face of criticism, you might feel the urge to explain or justify yourself. My advice is to avoid it unless it is specifically asked from you. The reason is that justification not only admits your insecurity, but it makes the other person think you aren’t listening.

What to do with the “nice” comments

99% of the time your mom is going to tell you how brilliant you are, and that’s wonderful. When you’re 5.

Friends and spouses (unless trained specifically not to do so) are probably going to tell you the same sort of thing. Except they may not get the glow in their eyes that your mother does upon receiving your latest 50 page poem on the beauty of spring flowers.

Resist the urge to accept the “that’s nice” sort of commentary. It is the worst for of venom. If you can’t get a person to give you more direct feedback, cross them off the list for future reviews. Chances are they’ll secretly thank you as they’ve been dreading that next email from you.

How to be a critic

Like friends, to get a critic you need to be a critic. If you only want to hear about your own work, chances are that what you are writing is so personal as to be unintelligible to the majority of readers in the world. After all, fiction is combat. You and the reader should be locked in battle over the fate of the characters in the story. They are rooting on the protagonist while you are throwing up roadblocks at every turn.

To understand how this works, you’ve got to be a reader yourself and as a reader you need to get nasty with the author when they do things that really make you angry. A good author learns not only how to use such feedback, they covet it. In knowing the value of such feedback, a good author will seek to give as well as they receive.

One thought on “Why Criticism is Necessary to Produce Great Fiction

  1. I once sat in on a writing group that was all fluffy bunnies and sunshine. Each session was more like therapy or a reason to drink wine and talk about books. Very frustrating.

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