So you pick up a magazine, book or other form of entertainment and as you make your way through it, you form an opinion of what you are reading or watching.
Good, bad or indifferent everyone has an opinion, but not everyone shares it or actually knows how to give their opinion as a constructive tool instead of a destructive weapon.
In this particular discussion I am going to focus on critiques as they are in regards to the written word.
Every author goes through a process of some sort from simple write it and publish it – to others who meticulously search out resources that they enlist to make sure every t is crossed and ever i dotted.
Professional authors more-so than amateur authors tend to have representatives through their publishers that take on this chore while even they can make mistakes along the way.
Amateurs often hire out services to accomplish much the same thing.
While I do not recall the name of the author (I’m not hiding his name on purpose), not all that long ago he made a game of sorts for his readers to report errors in his books through a bounty system of sorts which actually brought results.
Elsewhere you can find folks who make a point of calling out various errors in books just to claim some sort of justification for a refund and/or a bit of public notoriety.
When you consider that most professionally published books are under ten dollars (US), this can be both annoying and amazing at their detailed tenacity.
This unfortunately carries over or trickles down – depending how one looks at it – to the amateurs who strive to become much like the professional peers.
Telling a story, whether it’s a one off short or novel or part of a series is a journey that melds the writer and what he or she wants to deliver to an audience. One distinct problem a new author has is that the audience that they may be targeting is often not made up of those who they may rely upon for reviewing their work.
Fortunately, if you know the target audience that you’ve written your story for, you can often find other examples of popular stories within your genre that give a hint or three as to how to approach your methods.
But that won’t help when others attempt to poke holes, whether well intended or not, in either your story itself or in the way that you are telling it.
At this point you can knuckle under and follow their advice or spend time verifying your approach.
The one and only suggestion that I can offer at this juncture is to be consistent in any facet of what you do.
Tense is an often telling example that can make people cringe, point-of-view (POV) is yet another.
I’m fortunate to have a large collection of books that I’ve collected over the years along with favorite authors that I can rely upon to pick out exactly why I happen to like what they’ve done with their stories.
This unfortunately will not help when someone takes issue with what or how you’ve presented your tale.
When you are on the receiving end of a particularly critical review, take a moment or three and read the critique as if it wasn’t about you or your work. This may take the possible sting of a personal affront out of it as you then look at what was said in comparison to how it applies to your work.
At some point you will have to decide if you can ignore what was offered or apply a fix to correct the impression that you may begrudgingly admit was more right than wrong.
Not all critiques are as accurate as their author may wish them to be. They are often formed from opinion and practice that could and can be in direct conflict with your methods or ideals.
When I took up the hobby of BBQ smoking (not to be confused with grilling … please 8)) I’ve learned that getting details of why someone likes or dislikes your product can lead to a much better understanding of the entire process.
Rubs, injections, how you broke your stall and with what liquids, length of cook, type of wood – there are so many ways that you can improve or break your process and greatly affect what you deliver as an end product.
Knowing this, even when I come across a bad product – be it BBQ or the written word – I approach my critique in a positive frame of delivery in the hope that by taking out any conflict of reception, what I suggest is taken at face value for what it is.
Simply put, nothing more than my opinion, worth roughly .023443 cents (US) in today’s market.
Human nature is to take compliments far more quickly without issue than critical commentary. Getting your message across is often a difficult adventure in and of itself and can be almost as difficult as crafting a story.
I have heard of relationships between authors and their reviewers become heated – along with reviewers critiquing each other that can cause further rifts – to the point that the forum posts involved have been locked or even removed and the initial message lost forever.
This is not how a critique or review should be done as all the riffraff and fallout completely destroy the original message.
So if you’ve read this far and wonder, what exactly am I trying to say with this post?
Two things that will appear as almost two different sides of a coin.
As an author, realize that while you may not like what you hear – at least listen and consider what is being said.
As a critic, perhaps approach your suggestions or advice with kindness and present them politely rather than brusquely and with pointed directness.
Not everyone will be happy with the result but perhaps the message will not be lost in the static and you will get even better reviews or deliver them with far more success.