Thursday, October 21, 2010

Constructive Criticism, Your Friend and Mine

We're so pleased with the amazing response that we got to the post Your Turn. We thank each of you who offered feedback and suggestions. We'll be working through your requests in the upcoming weeks, so if you haven’t had a chance to add your ideas yet, please do so!

A recurring request was for more helpful, constructive comments to our Red Writing Hood posts each week. Many of you asked that we push ourselves as readers to be more helpful by offering true constructive criticism.

Purely positive feedback is flattering, but how do you feel when you get a comment that says, “Great post!” and nothing else?

So, what exactly is it that we’re looking for… do we really want honesty?

Do we want it watered down or straight up?

As we prepare to link up our posts tomorrow, it would be helpful to know what we are seeking here. If we’re hoping to get something authentic out of this connection that we share, we should be on the same page.

Since I don’t believe that we’re all just here to collect a pat on the back, let’s talk about constructive criticism. (For a great piece on this topic, see Lori's guest post, How An Education Can Ruin Your Writing.)

What exactly is constructive criticism? Well, we all know that it’s not, “this is terrible” or “wow…amazing!”

It probably looks more like this, “I love your opening line, but you use several clich├ęs that weaken your writing,” or, “Your story is engaging, but your paragraphs are far too long. Try breaking them up to help your reader.”

Constructive criticism, while helpful, can be tough to hear. It may not make you happy to read it and I can guarantee that you won’t get the warm and fuzzies.

But you will learn where you need to grow.

Remember, although you may not like the feedback you receive, entertain it. In the end, you will choose to use it, or choose to lose it, but I encourage you to truly listen to it.

You may find that you even have an "ah ha moment" and come to appreciate the helpful feedback as you see yourself growing.

But, if you disagree, try not to get upset or defensive. Just simply and sincerely thank the commenter, as they have spent their time trying to help you.

Now I hand it back to you all. How do you feel about constructive criticism, both offering it and receiving it?

(If you aren't looking for criticism right now, that's completely fine. Just make a note at the end of your post that you'd prefer for us to just read and encourage you right now.)


  1. I'm ready for the straight up. I absolutely want to push myself to get better and better. Though I do love the warm fuzzy stuff too :)

  2. Me too! Of course this means I might have to spend a little more time and actually edit something before posting it. :)

  3. I would not only appreciate constructive criticism, I'd welcome it! I want to improve my writing and I'm completely open to hearing what I'm doing wrong or what I need to work on getting better at.

  4. Concrit is an art form, and we all need to practice it to get better as both writers and editors/readers. I welcome concrit; too many writing groups fail because people are afraid to give anything but praise.

  5. You hit the nail on the head - good critiquing is when you say what you think needs improving along with suggestions on how to do so. You are also right it is tough to hear to begin with. When I first started participating in TRDC prompts I asked for "warts and all" feedback. A couple of weeks in I got some from the two or three followers I have who know me well enough to know I really meant that. Still, it was tough the first time reading it. But thanks to their comments each time I write I am learning and improving. I think it is worth noting that you might not always agree with the comments - occasionally I don't e.g. one time when someone said I should have had my character cursing all over the place, I didn't feel that the character in question was that type. But then I did feel a toy pig was the right sort :-) But even when you do not agree, hearing honest feedback makes you stop and think and gives a different perspective.

  6. Honeslty, if I leave a short comment like "awesome post" its because I don't have anything negative to say. It means I love it just as it is.

    If I do see something that I think needs editing, I am not sure the blogger wants that feeback, so I tread carefully.

    I have taken writing classes where the teacher tells us to avoid using words such as "cliche" and "trite" when critiquing, so I have been a bit trained to not use those terms. I don't know!

    I'm confused!

    I guess I would like to hear the good with the not-so-good comments, to cushion the blow.

  7. I definitely welcome concrit. I love the warm and fuzzies too but how else can I improve what I've written without someone brutally telling me it sucks :)

  8. Got it..."I would prefer that you read and encourage right now."

    I'm also happy with "great post."


  9. I'm one of those folks that will give constructive criticism when asked. A couple of bloggers I read regularly have asked for feedback. They want to learn and grow.

    I wrote a piece of poetry and didn't ask for feedback. I got some responses that made me rethink one of the lines I'd really struggled with. I changed the line, left the old line in with a line through it, and added a note at the end of the post to thank folks for their help and to explain why I'd changed the line.

  10. I definitely want it straight up. A lot of people that know me in real life tell me that I write exactly the way I talk, but I don't that that is such a good thing for those that don't know me. I want to learn and grow and get better.

  11. As a teacher who enjoys teaching writing more than anything, I am a HUGE fan of constructive criticism. I always say to my students (when they are working with a peer) that saying "great job" does nothing for a writer. I am not even sure it makes us feel good about our writing. yes, I want it--the good, the bad, and the ugly!

  12. When we do writer's workshop in the classes I teach (both high school and college level), I always remind everyone that comments on writing are not mean-spirited (or they shouldn't be), and that as the author, YOU have the right to take it or leave it. But it's never bad to get another perspective.

    I love warm fuzzies as much as the next guy--let's face it, we write because we want some love. But I also want to be better. I want people to WANT to read what I write, so I also welcome concrit.

  13. I have shared two posts on the private writing community that is part of this group, and the constructive criticism has been fantastic! I love the feedback I have gotten. The more specific, the more helpful, I think. I love when people point out specific parts and how to improve.

    As far as the weekly meme goes, I join in when I can for fun more than anything. I'm not really looking for constructive criticism so much on those pieces. But if people want to share it, that's great! I'll take it and be appreciative.

  14. Great post! j/k

    I'd love to hear what people have to say and suggestions they may have. I'm all in and looking forward to it.

  15. I love the warm and fuzzies, but I admit that I feel a bit let down when all I hear are praises. While they make my heart soar, I'm left wondering. I know there are areas I need to work on, and I want concrit to help me work on those areas.

  16. You know my methods, Watson.

    But, and this as someone who's done lit review and writing analysis - I will only give it if asked. People need to want and be ready for true critique or it just doesn't feel very nice.

    Also, I have two ways that I integrate feedback. There are people who are skilled, experienced writers and i will seriously consider whatever they tell me. If I'm working with a group of people less experienced, I will look for trends in critiques. One person who doesn't like how I pace my writing doesn't really tell me that my pace is bad, it tells me that someone didn't like it. A few people telling me that tells me that I'm doing something that is truly disruptive to people enjoying my work.

    And when I seriously want feedback, I seriously WANT it. And it's usually because I'm getting ready to submit it somewhere and I really need another pair of eyes.

    But blog posts? Nah...I just wanna hear about my awesomeness. ;)

  17. I wish I had read this yesterday! I'll note from here on out that I want constructive criticism.
    For me, writing prompts/groups is all about writing and becoming a better writer. These are the posts that I want feeback!
    Meme's (and essentially any OTHER post) are for fun and where the warm and fuzzies are expected.

  18. I'm so bad at giving concrit! I am all full of the love and appreciation for the work that we all do here. I am all for getting it, I just feel a bit inexperienced as far as giving it. Like what do I know about writing to tell someone else?

  19. I write everyday posts for me, but my links to TRDC are attempts to dip my toes in the creative writing waters I've been away from for 15 years. I NEED concrit. I expect from a writing meme. I think that's a great suggestion to have everyone include a line that either says "Constructive criticism welcome" or "Written just for fun" - most of us have a line that mentions the meme and the prompt; we could just incorporate that as well!


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