April 18th 2009
Useful & non-useful criticism
Beta readers. Writing workshops. Relatives and generous friends. You may have the opportunity at all stages of the writing process to get feedback on your work.
Learning to tell the difference between useful and non-useful criticism is crucial to being able to incorporate criticism into your writing process.
Sometimes you will receive comments that pierce right to the heart of a weakness or problem within the text. Sometimes you will received comments that really aren’t worth listening to. Most criticism will fall somewhere between.
Here are a few questions to ask yourself about the comments you have received.
1) is this criticism about the story, or about something else?
2) is this about the story you wrote, or the story the reader wants you to have written?
3) is this about the story you wrote, or the story the reader-thinking-as-writer would have written hirself?
4) is that detail or subplot unnecessary because it is unnecessary, or because the reader doesn’t like it, respect it, or find it interesting?
5) is the objection based on the text, or on the reader’s personal peeves and/or biases?
Finally, flip the question: Is this criticism unwarranted and useless, or am *I* avoiding the issue the criticism has raised? You may be, or you may not be; over time, you can teach yourself to develop a feeling for these differences.
How do you evaluate criticism?
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Kate Elliott is the author of multiple fantasy and science fiction novels, including the Crown of Stars series and the Novels of the Jaran. She's currently working on Crossroads; the first novel, Spirit Gate, is already out, and Shadow Gate will be published in Spring 2008. Visit site.
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