Why do I shed some peer critiques like mountain rain off Goretex, whereas others drill down into the core of my confidence? Why are some criticisms a welcome and joyful experience whereas others are simply belittling? This post is starting as a rumination, and over the next few weeks will turn into an analysis. Please keep coming back… and add your own comments below.
What makes a critique OK?
- A pre-planned, delineated set of critiquing criteria
- A written critique
- When it is delivered in private
- When it is delivered by someone whose opinion I value
- When the critique is emotionless and objective
- When it is a critique of a polished ‘as good as I can make it’ draft
- When it is a piece that is complete in itself
- When the critic identifies the nature of the criticism
- When the critic frames their criticism as personal preference
- When the critic queries word choice
- When the criticism is specific
What makes a critique not OK?
- Ad hoc critiquing adopted piecemeal by the critic there and then
- A verbal, ‘in person’ critique
- When it is delivered in public
- When it is delivered by someone whose opinion I do not value
- An emotionally charged critique
- When it is a critique of a first or early draft
- When it is a critique of a random section and the critic is not familiar with the earlier sections
- When the critic frames their criticism as me doing wrong
- When the critic substitutes their own words for mine
- When the criticism is general
- When I don’t agree with it
Tips for preparing work for critiquing
- Polish it as much as time and skill will allow. That way the critic will be focusing on the remaining errors or weaknesses, rather than the things you already knew you had to edit or research. You will get a better quality of critique.
- Place ‘to be researched’ passages or words in [square brackets], and tell the critic this is what they are.
- Only solicit critiques from people whose opinion you trust.