I’ve talked a lot about my writing process, those that support me and the long hours I spend in my office if the weather permits. However, today I’m going to talk about what happens once you’ve finished that short story or novel you’ve worked so hard on, the next step into getting it published.

Finding out what other people think. You may think that stack of papers you are holding in your grasp is gold. Your ticket to being a writer but others, not so much. First timers in workshops can have particularly brutal opinions. It has come to my attention, when giving suggestions on another persons work, to take a more round about approach so they hear what I like and what needs work rather than “This story was awful and you should burn it.”I was inspired to write this post because a fellow writer and friend of mine decided to conduct a small survey on Facebook. A friend of hers recently received a terrible, heartbreaking critique from a fellow student that wasn’t really helpful in terms of improvement but basically said that the reader did not enjoy the piece, openly admitting they didn’t finish reading it. My friend decided to have all her writer friends on Facebook post the most useless, hurtful or wtf critiques they have ever received.

Here are some examples:

“I suppose this was supposed to mean something, but I’m a simple man. From now on I won’t be reading any more of your smut. I am commanded to be holy and this story is straight from hell.”

“I don’t appreciate your use of the N word in this story. While I understand your setting is during the 1920s, as a black woman, there is no need for you to insert this word into your stories. It is like you are trying to prove your superiority through your white characters.” – This is a critique I received on one of my stories.

“This is borderline child pornography. I don’t think you’re meant to be a writer.”

“This isn’t poetry. It is me me me poor me whiny bullshit” -critique said out loud

“About all this description you like to do, honey, I’m gonna tell you something my daddy used to say—you’re tryin’ to hunt squirrels with a shotgun.”

“I really loved this paragraph and am thinking of incorporating it into my story.” No…that’s plagiarism….

People are harsh. The most disappointing realization that came out of this was that a lot of these comments came from professors. The ones that are supposed to nurture our talents or GENTLY let us down are the ones that are the most boisterous, wanting to embarrass (the critique said out loud was given by a professor) their students. There is always a right and a wrong way to give their opinion just like a writer should have thick skin and not fall into the pit of believing that everything they write is gold.

But we writers are also fragile in the sense that all we want to do is write. These opinions, while taking very little time to write, will stay with the writer for the rest of their lives. I know some writers who have given up because of the opinions of others especially if it is coming from a professor. When I receive a critique I find “useless” I push it aside, returning to it after I’ve revised the story to see if the piece has improved and making the critique invalid or if it truly was useless advice.

  • Note: I deem a useless critique to be on that does harm rather than providing examples of how improvements can be made to a story.

Where do you draw the line when it comes to giving your opinion on someone’s story? Do you feel it is your place to tell them “put the story aside” or leave that to an editor?

And feel free to share some of those terrible, hurtful or WTF critiques! After all, you are not alone.

 This post is in response to the Blogging from A to Z Challenge.