Beautiful, Wonderful Criticism

by MW Cook

     Usually I don’t like getting advice. Mostly because I think I’m already the cat’s meow. I guess most of us are like that.

     But when it comes to stuff I write, things are different.

     Most of my beta readers have started getting back to me. And every time I find one of their reports in my e-mail or glance at the hardcopy they’re marking up, I get chills of happiness.

     Some writers might not feel that way. Some feel slighted when a reader crosses out half their adverbs or doesn’t click with the protagonist or thinks your hero’s name sounds silly.

     Those writers are shooting themselves in the foot.

     I love criticism in my writing. And you should, too. Here’s why:

  • It makes you a better writing. We get upset at people correcting us when our pride is higher than our desire to excel at whatever is being corrected. And when it comes to writing, my pride knows its place – in the back, whispering encouraging things when I need it, and shutting up at all other times. I’m willing to sacrifice much to be a better writer.
  • It makes you a better person. Even outside of writing, it’s important to learn how to deal with and process criticism. Criticism looks at what you’re doing and suggests something different. It’s useful. It’s everywhere. You’ve got to get used to it.
  • It connects you to your audience. There is not much difference between your beta reader and the eventual people who are going to buy your book. So when a scene connects with them, it’s authentic. And when it doesn’t connect, you still have a chance to change it so it does. They are the beta readers. The prototype readers. Listen to them!
  • Criticism is encouraging. I would be afraid of getting a manuscript back unmarked. Unmarked, it either means it’s absolute, slobbering genius. Or it’s so bad there is really no place to begin the critical analyses. Guess which one is more likely? Criticism tells you that you’re not there yet. But you’ll get there.
  • Criticism makes you step outside. Until now your book was hidden away. Now it’s taking its first steps into a scary world. Now you get to see what others thing of your monster, while you still have a chance to shove him back in the lab.