Constructive Criticism by Raina Schell
“Constructive criticism is the process of offering valid and well-reasoned opinions about the work of others, usually involving both positive and negative comments, in a friendly manner rather than an oppositional one.” – Wikipedia –
When you’re a fledging writer you will probably receive two kinds of input. The first is constructive criticism and the second is unconstructive criticism or as I like to call it = Bull$h!t
The danger, at first, is that you may not know which is which and if you receive mean-hearted unconstructive criticism you may abandon your dream altogether. Remember when you were a kid and you had a dream? It’s happened to all of us at one point or another in our lives. You had a dream and some mean-spirited adult masquerading as well meaning told you that no matter what you did or how hard you tried you would never accomplish it. They convinced you that they knew best and because of X, Y or Z you could never achieve your goals.
It could have been that jealous theater teacher in high school who was a teacher and not an actor because they themselves failed at becoming famous. Or perhaps it was a parent who didn’t want you to be a police officer because you may get hurt in the line of duty so they told you that you were too out of shape. It could have been an older sister who was envious of your amazing voice and told you that you couldn’t carry a tune. The examples are unlimited but you get the idea. Well, the same exact thing will happen when you start to put yourself out there as a writer, before you’re published. After you’re published even if you are crap, they’ll tell you how fabulous you are but that’s a different blog post.
From my limited experience I’ve found that the writers who are kind and encouraging, the ones who take the time to build you up, pat you on the back and take you under their wings are the successful ones. I meet a lot of writers, I talk to a lot of writers, I attend a myriad of writing classes. The writers who I have personally chosen to be my critique partners are kind and helpful. If they don’t like the way I’ve written something or think I can do a better job they tell me nicely. They don’t put me down, belittle me, condescend or patronize. A New York Times bestselling writer in my RWA group has been one of the most encouraging women to me and other new writers. Other women in my groups who are both traditionally and self-published have also been kind and helpful. However, this is not always the case, nor will it be. For every five nice, kind, wonderful, helpful people there is always at least one a$$hole.
I count myself lucky that I’ve only run across a couple so far. Women with obviously low self esteem who, for no reason other than to make themselves feel better have tried to tear my writing apart in patronizing, nasty, self inflated ways that was not helpful to me. These people also happen to be unsuccessful, which I understand is part of their reason for putting other writers down.
I know I have a lot of work to do but I also know I’m a good writer. I have doubts about other aspects of my life but not about my writing. I don’t think I’m anywhere near great but I believe I have that potential. I’ve been writing for my entire life. I’ve even earned quite a successful living as a writer.
I’m sharing this because if someone who isn’t confident in their abilities or even if someone is having a bad day; an attack on their writing could keep them from following their dreams and that would be a huge shame. Sometimes people are taught that constructive criticism is pointing out their faults and “helping” them to become better writers but I disagree. If you read the definition at the top of the page it is delivered “in a friendly manner, not in an oppositional one.” There are ways to tell someone anything NICELY! A very well known teacher said to me a week ago, “that’s really good writing and I like it a lot but I think it could be even better with…” THAT’S THE KIND OF CONSTRUCTIVE CRITICISM YOU SHOULD PAY ATTENTION TO! And that’s the kind you will get with a professional, successful writers and your helpful critique partners. Please don’t settle for anything less and please don’t take writer bashing by meanies to heart, remember they’re the ones who suck – the life out of everyone around them because they’re unhappy… (not you)!!!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Raina Schell lives in an undisclosed location near Marin County, California with her secret boyfriend, invisible dog and a fish named Larry. After being on the lam for the past 8 years Raina is finally coming close to completing her first novel, a paranormal romance/urban fantasy that may or may not be titled Exquisite Destiny and may or may not be the first stand-alone book of a projected 5 book series.
In the field of writing, non-novel specific: Raina has written and produced dozens of television segments and half-hour television shows. These have aired on local, national and international TV stations which will not be disclosed. For fun she’s also written un-optioned screenplays, a maverick movie trailer and countless blogs. When Raina is not writing she has other jobs that she isn’t nearly as passionate about.