Wednesday 15 September 2010

We Interrupt This Broadcast

Criticism is invaluable to writers. Hell, it's invaluable to us all.

I've tried it in a number of ways, from peer assessment, friends' opinions, family and words from those who actually know what they're talking about.

The ability to accept constructive comment is a definite learning curve in itself. You might go through the 'taking it very personally' phase. You might want to give up. It might occur to you that if you're no good at doing what you love you might as well not make the effort of getting out of bed in the morning.

The phases need to be grown through.
Eventually, we can get to the point of realising that truly well intentioned criticism is our friend. We need to walk with it. Accept it into our homes. Learn to take over the job for ourselves when the time is right (cut out the awful sentence, the back-story, the over-ellaborate, the flowery, even our favourite lines).

If you're new in the writing town, take this advice (and like any criticism, take or leave it once you've given it fair consideration).

Asking friends and family sucks. What are they going to say? They love you already, that should be enough. Sure, if you have a friend of a particular type who's up in the genre you're crafting, maybe, otherwise just no.

Accepting comments from editors or agents is better, but then they might be working through thousands of submissions, may have pet loves and hates or just have seen your work on a bad day.

Peer assessment, so long as it's from a neutral standpoint, is better. Allows you to think things over in a non-threatening way. You can feel safe and helped at the same time. By joining in the process of offering crits yourself, you'll soon become better at analysing your own work and cutting or adding as appropriate.

Chris Rhatigan was up with his 'Dancing With Myself' post yesterday.
He's doing something with a writing group aimed mainly at crime creators. Check out the info at:

I've decided to go along. First off, it's a great idea. Second, it has Chris' name on it - that'll be enough for me.

Chris, thanks.


  1. We'll be glad to have you Nigel--you're clearly a very talented writer.

  2. Nigel,

    Completely agree with you on family. When I was writing comedy waaaay back when, when I was thinking about doing stand-up, I was also reading a ton of books on how to do stand-up.

    Rule number one was not to do stand-up for your family because they're not going to boo you or want you yanked off the stage (unless you have that kind of family).

    The suggestion was what we as writers do. Jump right into the ocean and accept the waves that come with the splash you make (or don't).

  3. I've just posted something for feedback. I've got my wetsuit on and can't wait for the waves to arrive.