I hate to admit this, but critics are a valuable resource to anyone in the midst of the writing and editing process. There’s a few different types, and I’ll list the least helpful first:
1. The Yes-Men: These people will read anything and say it’s awesome. At least, it seems that way. They might think they’re helping by encouraging the writer, but without offering any more than a general compliment, a yes-man is not getting into the nitty gritty details that are needed to fine-tune a work.
2. The Haters: Haters are gonna’ hate. It’s a fact. Some folks just want to make everyone miserable, and they’ll say stupid things to push your buttons. Statements like, “This is crap,” or “You suck,” really don’t go deep enough to explain whether the reader is simply being an ignoramus (I love that word), or if they honestly believe that what they’ve just typed is true. Different writers might react to such comments in different ways, but I figure that if my writing has caused a strong reaction, then I must be doing something right… I hope.
3. The Grammar/Spelling Nazis: No one is perfect. Even the grammar and spelling Nazis aren’t perfect (though they won’t always admit it –– and I know because I can be one). I’d like to think that my spelling, at the least, is perfect, but it’s not. I have weaknesses –– terrible ones. My grammar? Ha… right. As much as I appreciate the effort to perfect my spelling and grammar, such things are details that I would ask specific people to address during a later draft. Suppress that inner Grammar/Spelling Nazi!!! However, if I am ever so atrocious with said details that you feel that you’ll go blind from trying to read it, please print out my writings and send them back to me with red pen marks and notes all over them…
4. The Romantics: I run from writing romance. I’ll be honest. It is awkward. It is cliché. It is ridiculous. Yes, I do give in sometimes, but… I try to avoid it. However, now and again, there will be the reader who suggests a pairing, and I cringe in the same way that I would cringe if fingernails were scratched across a chalkboard. Does it have its place? Absolutely. Am I going to force it? No.
5. Anti-Tragedy Readers: Hear me out. I am not necessarily a writer of tragedies, but I do put my characters through hell (Just ask Feann, from Perseverance). If you don’t like it, read a different book. Life is not fair, and my characters are fully aware of that fact…
6. True Critics: These are folks who generally read quite a bit and ask all of the right questions. Things like, “Why on earth did _____ do that?!” or “What about the _____?” or “Who is _____?!” or “I’d like to hear more about _____.” Even comments like, “_____ really acted out of character in that scene.” or “I like how _____ said this.” can be beneficial. Reactions, questions, advice, etc. These are the tools with which a writer can learn exactly how to tweak things to make the story read smoothly and have deeper meaning to the reader.
So the next time you are asked to critique my writing (I can’t vouch for anyone else), here’s my request: Tell me what you like, and then be completely honest with what could be better –– even the enormous plot details. Don’t hold back! I might not go with everything that you say, but I will consider it. Most likely, I will be very happy to have a challenge to work with. Otherwise, the editing process grows stale, and I get ready to throw in the towel… and we don’t want that, now, do we?