The Journal: Another Brief Note on Critiques

In today’s Journal

* Quotes of the Day
* Topic: Another Brief Note on Critiques
* And Then There’s This
* Of Interest

Quotes of the Day

“Here’s a revelation for some people: the age of the audience is not a genre.” R.S. Mellette

“PG has never read a book because he wants to impress anyone either positively or negatively and doesn’t think he would enjoy associating with someone who does.” The Passive Guy

Topic: Another Brief Note on Critiques

K.C.’s comment on yesterday’s post drew my attention, especially when I received a similar response to a comment I posted over on TKZ from another writer.

K.C. wrote, “I have had friends with specialized knowledge (i.e. sailboats and sailing) critique the specific parts of a book for technical errors or better description. But other than that and copy edit, nobody gets into my work before it’s published.”

And over on TKZ, Steve Hooley wrote, “I find beta readers’ reviews very helpful, since I write teen fiction and it’s been many moons since I’ve been around teens.”

There’s nothing at all wrong with either of those situations. I can see how a writer seeking technical advice on anything — sailboats, weaponry, idioms used currently by teens, etc. — improves the work. No problem.

But neither K.C. nor Steve are undermining their own confidence as writers. Inviting input on technical details,  is not the same thing as inviting critique of the writing or storytelling itself.

My first readers catch misspellings, wrong-word usages (e.g., solder for soldier), technical errors and inconsistencies. But if any of them venture to advise me on the writing itself, I ignore that advice.

And as Steve wrote a little farther along in a response to another comment, “There are as many expectations of the book as there are readers. We’re all different, and we all want different things.”

I agree. And that’s exactly what I said in my earlier comment on his post, albeit in different words. But Steve is right. Readers are all different and they all want different things. If only we writers were somehow able to apply such an austere, striking truth to the weight we give reviews and critiques.

Just sayin’.

And Then There’s This

Discussions about the value of critiques always remind me of the old saw about a writer’s inability to judge his or her own work: “A writer is the worst judge of his/her own work,” which ostensibly is why the writer needs critique partners or critique groups, etc.

Somehow, most writers fail somehow to understand that one opinion (the writer’s own or anyone else’s) is only one opinion and the very next person’s opinion probably will be different.

Most writers cling to “A writer is the worst judge of his or her own work” anytime they believe their work is Good. The mental rationale? My story can’t possibly be any good, and writers are the worst judges of their own work, so my belief that it IS good is actually proof that is isn’t.

Ta da! How’s that for some mental gymnastics? But wait. It gets worse.

If the writer believes his or her work is BAD, the wisdom of the saying vanishes as if the saying never existed and the writer assumes his or her opinion is valid and correct. And the mental rationale? The same: My story can’t possibly be any good, and my belief that it’s bad is all the proof I need.

And into the drawer the manuscript goes, never to see the light of day or publication.

Mind boggling.

Talk with you again soon.

Of Interest

See “What Writers Can Learn From It’s a Wonderful Life” at

See “A Bookshelf for All Ages” at

See “The Rise of Insta-Artists and Insta-Poets” at I’m far too old to comment without grumbling.

Disclaimer: In this blog, I provide advice on writing fiction. I advocate a technique called Writing Into the Dark. To be crystal clear, WITD is not “the only way” to write, nor will I ever say it is. However, as I am the only writer who advocates WITD both publicly and regularly, I will continue to do so, among myriad other topics.

4 thoughts on “The Journal: Another Brief Note on Critiques”

  1. “A writer is the worst judge of his/her own work,” and that’s exactly why other people don’t get to opine. You want that. But you have to fence with it, not quit.

    It takes a lot to satisfy me while I’m working on a scene (a version of your re-reading and fixing before writing on), and if it’s not exactly right, I don’t get the internal cue to move on.

    But when I do, I rarely have to go back – because the scene describes what actually happened. I just had to get the words right.

    A writer should be the ONLY judge of their own work. After the appropriate apprenticeship to learn how to do things, and subject to Continuing (self-) Education credits.

    Then you throw it out there, and see if there are like-minded readers.

    • Hi Alicia. Thanks for commenting.

      Whatever works for you (and anyone else) is perfectly fine.

      We established some time ago that due to your personal affliction you are unable to write from the creative subconscious and are therefore forced to write from your conscious, critical mind. Hence “I just had to get the words right.”

      I can’t imagine not being able to experience flights of imagination or fancy or, having experienced them, not being able to write them down. You choose to fence with the situation. If I were thus afflicted, I would not write at all because writing like that wouldn’t be fun for me.

      Thank you for the points in your comment too. I’ll respond to those in a Journal entry.

      • Don’t be concerned about the fun side – I love what I do. The final versions come faster now.

        And as for struggling – that I don’t have a choice about. I started writing AFTER the damage happened, as soon as the little ones were old enough to be homeschooled during the day, and husband could handle the three in the evening for a while. So I’ve never had the brain working while writing, not the conventional way.

        I’m driven – to leave something in spite of the loss of my physics – and was always going to write in retirement anyway. I am content, and just about to start the writing of the third volume of the trilogy.

        You do what you can, if you can’t do what you want.

        • Oh, no, I wasn’t concerned. You and I have talked before, so I know you enjoy your process.

          On a wider scale, whether anyone else is enjoying or despising their own process (or something in between) really doesn’t matter to me. I’m kind of like Saul turned Paul. I can only testify to what I used to do and what I do now and the incredibly freeing difference.

          That’s really all DWS did for me. He showed me what was available, but he never pushed it on me. I decided to test it (skeptically). I was shocked but very pleasantly surprised to find WITD as easy and freeing as he thought I might, and I’ve never looked back. So I try to do the same for others that he did for me. I just tell them WITD is out there, what it is and how to try it, then stand back. They overcome the fears or not and make up their own mind.

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