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The Blog of Anya Harker » 2011 » October

Thoughts on Critiques

October 23rd, 2011

I wound up having an email conversation with Aimée Carter tonight about critiques and how to take them. And it got me thinking… and in the end, writing about it.

Sure, I may be an unpublished author, but I still know a thing or two about critiques. I spent a year of high school having my work critiqued by the best damn english teacher I could have ever asked for.

Really, in the end, it’s all about attitude you have when getting and receiving a critique. Unless you have the desire to make your work better, a critique from the best editor in the world is worthless. The point of critiques is to point out things that are missing and find ways to make your work even better than it was when you sent it out. Writing is always about improving and making your work the best it can be. If you have no desire to make your work better, then back away from me and my blog right now.

Whoever is giving you a critique of your work isn’t trying to bully you or make you feel bad. They’re looking at your work from an objective point of view and trying to point out things you may have missed. Face it, your work is like your baby and it’s precious to you. When you look at that shiny manuscript in your hands or on your iPad, you’re going to see it as the best thing ever. The thought that there could be something wrong with it? How dare you say such a thing!

Truth of the matter, no one, not even Stephen King is told his first draft is the most amazing thing since sliced bread. Critiques tell you when you’ve missed something, when you have inconsistencies, or when you add a kitchen where there shouldn’t be a kitchen. It’s someone else bringing a pair of fresh eyes to your work.

DOs
* Listen to what they have to say. You may not agree with everything, and that’s okay. It’s one person’s opinion. Have ten people read something, and you’ll get ten different opinions.
* Take time to digest what’s been said. If you’re not used to getting critiques (and I’m not, I admit), read through it, then put it in a folder for a while until you can come back with a clear head. Chances are you’ll look at it a lot kinder a week or two later.

DON’Ts
* Take it personally. Whoever is critiquing, be it a friend or an agent or an editor is not out to get you. They’re trying to help you and make it better. So going off on someone isn’t the way to solve things. A critique is not a reflection on you it’s a reflection on the manuscript.
* Rant about it to the person. Really, it makes you look like an idiot. And how do you think an agent will take it if you tell them “no, you’re wrong!”

Does that mean that whatever someone says in your critique is god and therefore you must incorporate EVERYTHING into your work? No, it doesn’t. You won’t agree with everything and if someone’s only reading a few chapters, they may not have the whole picture and some of what they offer to you won’t be accurate or helpful.

Most importantly? You are allowed to lick your wounds. It’s hard getting a critique back, especially when you’re not used to people being blunt about your work. I got a critique back recently that, yes, sent me into a strop. However, I didn’t yell at she who did my critique, nor did I pitch a fit. I may have whined to a friend, but then I put it away for a week. A week later, I pulled it out, re-read it and found things that I did miss and that I want to incorporate into my first three chapters.

Always remember: critiques are there to help you improve; not to make you feel horrible. Critiques are also the start of the thick skin any artistic professional needs to have in order to survive. Not everyone is going to like your work — so being able to take a critique goes a long way towards being able to stomach a bad review.

This came up in a conversation with a friend of mine who is starting up a review blog. Over the weekend, she posted a review and had the author reply to it. She was ecstatic to get a response from the author, especially as she was just starting up.

However, I was shocked that the author said anything to her. I was always brought up with the mindset that authors shouldn’t say anything to reviewers, given it a good or bad book. I’m sure most of us remember the mocking of Anne Rice once upon a time when she popped up on Amazon to respond to her reviews. Other authors come to mind as well, and there’s usually a lot of other people pointing and laughing that they stopped to counter a negative review.

It led my friend and I to a discussion about the difference between Canadian and American authors that, in her words, Canadian authors are a more tight-knit community and it’s more of a norm that the authors reach out to bloggers to either respond or chat with them.

So this brings me to my question: what do you do in terms of responding to reviews? Do you read them and either do a dance of joy when someone loved it or silently weep if they didn’t like it? Do you take the time to reply to a review or do you let them just sit there as shining jewels you look at when you need a smile?

Personally, I’m on the side of not saying anything. You run the risk of starting a bad precedent that “oh, she responded to that review, but not mine!” or you get a bad name for being the crazy-person who is always defending her work. But perhaps that’s just me.

So please, thoughts on the issue anyone?

RIP Steve Jobs

October 5th, 2011

As a budding author, I’ve found that the best thing for me to write on is my trusty iPad. It kept me company when I studied abroad in the UK last year and I’ve even used it in a courtroom to take notes for an attorney I worked for last summer. I admit that I’ve been a Windows user for years, but over the course of the last year I’ve slowly been converted to being a complete and total apple user. The user interface is friendly and even for someone who is a computer geek, it does exactly what I want it to and more. I’ve yet to have to fight with my mac. What Steve did for the computer and technology will never be surpassed. He was a true visionary and genius, and one who has been taken from us far too soon. Thanks to apple, whenever I’ve had a problem with something, I know I can go into an apple store and I don’t have to gird my loins for a fight. I walked into an apple store and felt valued. It’s what made me a repeat customer.

Thank you, Steve, for all this and more. You’ve revolutionized the technology sphere, as well as changed the way your customers are treated.

Thank you for everything. See you in the iCloud.

The above is what I sent to rememberingsteve@apple.com. They invite everyone to send in thoughts, memories, and condolences. If you haven’t yet, head on over apple.com to see the fabulous tribute Apple has done to Steve.

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