Monday, October 10, 2016

L.G. Keltner's Critiques 101: Separating the Wheat from the Chaff



How to Deal With Critique in a Constructive Way

One of the main issues the main character in the Self-Help 101 series deals with is her writing insecurities.  In the latest installment, Self-Help 101 or: How to Select a Costume to Help You Deal With People, Dani has started a blog.  While some of the feedback she gets from her readers is good, she also gets her share of negative critiques.  It’s a reality all writers must be prepared to encounter.

First of all, it’s crucial to understand not all critique is equal.  There are some people who take joy in hurling vile insults at anyone they can reach.  When you put your writing out there for the world to enjoy, you’re also exposing yourself to people like this.  It can be frustrating to read abusive comments about your work that offer no constructive criticism, but it’s important not to let things like this stop you from writing.  If a comment offers nothing valuable, it’s not worth your time.

I’ve also seen authors deal with one-star reviews that make you wonder why the person chose the book in the first place.  An example of this would be someone saying they hate reading books with teenage protagonists while reviewing a book that was clearly marketed as featuring a teenage protagonist.  Reviews like this can also be quite frustrating, but these can also be safely brushed to the side.  They are not an indictment of your work.  This person was never a part of the book’s target audience anyway, and you’re never going to be able to write something that everyone loves.

The critiques that a writer should take to heart are the ones that make thoughtful observations about the material.  If enough readers say that a particular part of your story doesn’t work for them, then you should consider what they have to say.  Learning to analyze and make use of good constructive criticism is a vital skill for any writer to have.  Ultimately it’s up to you to decide which suggestions you’re going to take into account in the future.  Just remember that this kind of feedback is valuable, because it’s how you learn and grow as a storyteller.






Excerpt:

Seth was silent for several moments as he read the despicable comment.  “I wish I could punch whoever wrote that,” he finally said.  He was seething.  The prospect of Seth rushing off to defend my honor was both laughable, because the guy may be many things but a fighter is not one of them, and sweet, albeit in a somewhat barbaric way.  Not that I’m any better.  I know I’m not.  If anyone gave Seth too much of a hard time, I’d be right there plotting revenge.
“You shouldn’t bother yourself too much over this comment,” I said lightly.  “This person’s suggestions, while intriguing, would involve violating several known laws of physics.”
I could have deleted the comment.  I’d been tempted to go that route on multiple occasions, but I kept deciding against it.  If the nasty comments were going to keep coming anyway, I’d rather wear them as a badge of honor.  The fact that someone took the time to write such vile drivel meant that I had a growing audience with which I’d struck a chord.  That couldn’t be all bad.



Title: Self-Help 101 or: How to Select a Costume to Help You Deal With People
Author: L.G. Keltner
Genre: holiday/humor
Length: 29,000 words
Cover Art:  L.G. Keltner and Jamon Walker
Release Date: September 27, 2016


Blurb:

Book 3 in the Self-Help 101 series.

Dani Finklemeier is adjusting to life in college and the realities of living away from home for the first time.  She’s also learning to deal with the criticism that stems from sharing her writing with the world.  Some of the online criticism is even spelled correctly, which somehow makes it worse.

Fortunately, she has a Halloween party, a group of friends, and a supportive boyfriend to distract her from the things that are bothering her.  Of course, a holiday celebration wouldn’t be complete without something going wrong.  Between an unpleasant confrontation with an infuriating classmate, some shocking costume choices, and a bizarre fraternity stunt, the evening will be anything but dull.

Dani’s detractors may not like it, but she’ll definitely have enough material for another book.




Bio:

L.G. Keltner spends most of her time trying to write while also cleaning up after her crazy but wonderful kids and hanging out with her husband.  Her favorite genre of all time is science fiction, and she’s been trying to write novels since the age of six.  Needless to say, those earliest attempts weren’t all that good. 

Her non-writing hobbies include astronomy and playing Trivial Pursuit.

You can typically find L.G. lurking around her blog, on Twitter, or on her Facebook page.



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How do you handle writing and/or receiving critiques? 


40 comments:

  1. I'm not a fan of the critiquing school many modern folks seem to think is mandatory, that of tearing apart every single thing they can and not saying anything positive. I even had one short-lived critiquer who didn't like the fact that I type in Palatino instead of that hideous Times New Roman! I've been using that typeface since before she was old enough to remember, and honestly can't type with anything else.

    The best critique says what one likes or loves, what one thinks might need work or some changes, and overall impressions. We're under no obligation to make every single change everyone suggests, since ultimately we know our stories better than anyone else. For example, two of the women in the small critique group of my local writers' group have point-blank said they don't like my character Cinnimin, whom everyone else has always loved. That just means they're not the intended readers, not that I need to radically change this character's integral nature so she's more sugar and spice instead of brutally honest, quick with a punch, and packing so much attitude. Another critiquer, in a first 250 words contest I won, was fixated on the fact that the first word was German. She claimed she broke her Google trying to find the meaning, and didn't grasp the rather obvious fact that the word is defined in the very second line of the story. She also didn't understand the setting is an escape from a death march near the end of WWII, though the women in my critique group some months back told me they didn't agree with any of those previous complaints. It was obvious to them what the setting was, based on the context. They also understood the German word was defined in the second line, and suggested maybe that other person was under the impression she had to rip everything apart for its own sake.

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    1. Thanks for sharing your experiences!

      I don't Google foreign words immediately upon seeing them when reading a story, because I rely on context to tell me what it means. If a majority of people understood what you were doing with your piece, you're fine.

      Some people do seem to think they need to rip things to shreds for the sake of it, and at the end of the day, that's just as unhelpful as someone saying they loved your work and offering no feedback about how it could be improved.

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    2. When I first started going to my critique group, I was the person dissecting every sentence and suggesting word changes, capitalization corrections, you name it. I thought I was there to line edit people's stuff. It took some time and listening to others for me to realize the valuable stuff writers' needed was feedback on characters, plot development, mood, etc. It's a learning process.

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    3. I have been considering joining a writers group. Your comments on what you see as the benefits are helpful. Thanks.👵

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  2. I've had a few of those dumb one-star reviews. They're often amusing. But there are many others I have learned from, including ones that were middle of the road.

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    1. Thanks for stopping by! Reviews that you learn something from are infinitely valuable. Even the dumb ones can be valuable in a way, even if that value is found in having a good laugh about it.

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  3. I scratch my head over some of the reviews I read. While many are excellent and offer a good evaluation of the book, others are so poorly written that they often make no sense. My take on reviews is that there's always something good to be found in a book. If not, then don't bother to read the story at all.

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    1. Sometimes I read reviews when considering a new book to read, and I've come across plenty of reviews that are poorly-written or are just plain mean, and I discard them. A thoughtful evaluation of a book gives me a far better idea of what that book has to offer.

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  4. Thanks for letting me stop by your blog today! I appreciate it!

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    1. You are welcome. I will be leaving this up until Friday and will be blogging more this week to bring more people over. Today was tough because the kids were home from school and we had a birthday party to prepare and go to.

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  5. Great suggestions! Usually it can be easy to figure out if someone is offering a sincere critique or if they're just being rude or didn't even read the story. But they sure can be frustrating.

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    1. They sure can. Thank you for stopping by!

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  6. Good job on touching on critiques, L.G. I think this is one that plagues most of us.

    Hi, Tamara:)

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  7. I've been quite lucky not to have any really bad reviews or critiques. I'm all for people pointing out what didn't work, but like you say, that's only really useful if there's suggestions offered for improvement.

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    1. I'm glad to hear you haven't had any really bad experiences with reviews yet. I've also been fairly fortunate for the most part. Thank you for stopping by!

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  8. Love it!! Such good advice. I agree, a well thought out review is like writer gold.

    And why do people read books they'll hate? Is it some sort of self-flagellation? If i know from the get-go a book isn't for me, I pass. Life is too short and there are too many great books to read!

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    1. I agree! There are so many books I want to read I can't imagine spending time on something I don't.

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  9. Love it!! Such good advice. I agree, a well thought out review is like writer gold.

    And why do people read books they'll hate? Is it some sort of self-flagellation? If i know from the get-go a book isn't for me, I pass. Life is too short and there are too many great books to read!

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  10. At least critiques are private, eh? I'd rather hear it behind the scenes than out in the open where everyone can read it. I actually had one reviewer, an older, grouchy man who decided to pick up my YA paranormal. Not sure what he was thinking. Or if he was thinking. But the thing that got me was that then he felt compelled to write a 1 star review after reading the first chapter and realizing the book wasn't for him. Brr? The logic.

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    1. That's crazy! When I realize a book isn't for me, I simply put it down and move on. Why leave a bad review when I'm clearly not the book's intended audience? That makes no sense.

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  11. A good critique group is worth its weight in gold. A bad critique group can destroy your spirit and kill your writing motivation. It's very hard to find a good one but when you do, don't let it go!

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  12. Sometimes when I read reviews I honestly wonder what book the reader actually read. Oh well, at least they left a review.

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    1. I've wondered the same thing from time to time. Thanks for stopping by!

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  13. I'm usually pretty good with constructive criticism, as long as it doesn't contain personal attacks. My bf is an amazing copy editor, but sometimes he gets some zingers in unintentionally--it's a dangerous combo of being brutally honest and attempting to be funny at the same time--and man, does he pay for it!

    I've also been upset by feedback from agents before, but I find that if I step back, take a breather, and return to it later, I always find that they had a point and am grateful for their feedback.

    I'm a professional editor, so I'd just like to add--when an editor takes the time to point out flaws in your story, especially when we volunteer to be a crit partner, we're trying to HELP! We have no desire to hate on a book. It's actually extremely difficult to give a writer negative feedback, especially when you know and like the person. (Not that I'm speaking from personal experience or anything.) :P

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I will do everything in my power to visit commenter's blogs unless I've been abducted by aliens or my children get sick. (If my children get abducted by aliens, I will be very busy, of course, catching up on my sleep.)

Note: During the A to Z challenge, I may not be able to return all comments in a timely fashion, but I will do my best.