When Critiquing

Your credentials don’t matter. You may read an average of 900 books a year, or you may have just discovered the joy of the written word this past week. Regardless of your reading history, it doesn’t matter.

Because I don’t care.

If I want to know what books or authors you have or have not read, I will ask. But remember, when you are critiquing someone’s work, it’s best to leave yourself out of it. You are there to help the writer, not tell them about yourself. So this is not a good way to start a critique:

“First off this is fairly hard to follow and I read Orson Scott Card, Greg Bear and Dean Koontz quite a bit.”

Well gee, I’m glad you told me that because I now I know exactly how to improve my work. Don’t worry, I don’t need specifics or anything. Because I know what you read.

Okay, so that’s not terrible. It gives me a basis on which you are making a comparison. But let’s make certain I understand how super qualified you are to critique my work:

“I call myself well read. I read everything. Good, excellent and some bad. I read the top fantasy and SF authors going back to the sixties…”

Good for you! That means you can give me extremely helpful feedback, right? I got a general feel of “I don’t get this”, “too descriptive”, and “MaTisha has no feeling”. The last bit was the most helpful tidbit I received through the whole critique. Of course it contained no suggestions as to how to improve her, but only:

“Make us love MaTisha.”

Gosh. It’s not like I set out to make people hate my character. But thanks to your insightful feedback, I know what to do to fix her.

On the flip side, I have listened to your feedback and accept these are areas I need to improve on. I will and have put effort into making my story better.

Though your boasting did annoy me, it didn’t make me angry. What got me was your advice.

“Loved the sylph books and have read them all. Have you read Moning or Kenyon? Of course J.R. Ward has a monster following too and Kim Harrison is coming up fast. If not, get to reading. All are top authors and top sellers in the fantasy genre. Read what sells. Read what wins awards. Read junk too.”

Good advice. I was well aware of it prior to you telling me. It’s the type of advice that big name authors might give. However, You… You haven’t earned the right to give me advice. How dare you tell me what to do with the arrogant assumption that I don’t already do so?

That made me angry.

Critiques are about improving what is written in the manuscript. Stay out of my personal life as if you had any authority within it. I’ve learned to take feedback relatively well. Ask the people who know me personally. I really want to produce a good book. But I write because I like it, because I need to. Next time, leave yourself out of my critique.

Phew. Glad that’s off my chest.

Since I’m not the type of person to point out flaws without a potential solution, I’d like to share a link to an awesome critique etiquette course:


Check it out. It’s good stuff yo.

Loni Townsend

About Loni Townsend

Wife. Mother. Writer. Ninja. Squirrel.

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