How to Handle Critiques

A friend on another blog is in the process of writing a novel (I believe it’s her first) and was feeling rather nervous about having to present the opening chapters to her critique group. I know how rough that can be (I’m sure all writers do), especially if someone starts tearing apart some of your favorite bits that you’ve written. Even knowing that the feedback can be a great help, it doesn’t keep it from being rather hard to hear sometimes.

So I sent her a list the things I do to help me get handle a writing critique, and thought I would share it here, too.

1. Take deep breaths and just listen. I try not to argue of explain. I just listen until they are finished and it’s my turn to talk.

2. I say, thank you. If someone didn’t understand something, I may explain what I was trying to get at in the hopes that talking it out with someone will help me figure out why the writing wasn’t clear and how I might improve it.

3. If someone really lays into my writing hard, I allow myself to feel hurt and raw about it for a little while — but there’s a time limit. I’m only allowed to mope and obsess for about an hour or two, and then I very firmly tell myself to let it go.

4. I remind myself that the critique is of my words and not of me as a person, that personal taste and opinions vary vastly, and that all writing is a progressive learning process and every piece of writing can be improved.

5. Once over any hurt feelings, I sit back and seriously think about what was said in comparison with my writing. Either (a) there is some truth in what was said and an opportunity to change and improve my writing, or (b) I disagree with what was said and will decide to leave the story/poem/chapter as is.

6. Get back to writing, because that’s what really matters.

Do you have any techniques you use to help you handle a critique session, especially one that’s particularly rough?

[x-posted to my livejournal. If you feel inclined, you may comment either her or there.]