Saturday, April 18, 2015

Critiques vs. Questions That Will Be Answered Later in the Story

As my second blogpost, I will talk about something I have seen a lot of in the past few days. As writers, it is just about mandatory to suck it up and send our work out into the world for critiques. Feedback is gold, and helps us hone our craft. Critiques can sting, but in general, they are for the better.

But what happens if you get your work back and there is a shit ton of red on it? What if the person critiquing your work questions everything, slashes through your writing, then hands it back to you, saying it just doesn’t work? What happens if the critiques were questions that could be answered in the next chapter?

Yea, that’s where I’m going with this. There needs to be a distinguishing quality between the two of them.

What I mean is this: if there are serious inconsistencies, great; if not, what is the driving force to mark it as something that ‘doesn’t work’?

Example: In chapter one, Mary gets a scholarship. She’s excited—ecstatic, even.  But Mary’s grades suck, Mary is always getting into trouble, and Mary likes her Pendleton. She’s known to be quite the sleaze. She hates the staff and faculty at Gwadaba University. In fact, she’s a troublemaker and pees in the shower and is just an awful person.  

That’s an inconsistency, right? I mean, scholarships, in general, go to those who work their ass off to achieve higher dreams and expectations. Why the heck is somebody like her getting a scholarship in the first place? Wouldn’t the college be like, “Whoa, okay, this kid is a train wreck. Better not waste our money.”

So the person reading this puts on the brakes, grabs their handy-dandy red pen, and goes to town.

The writer gets the work back, then has to explain that in Chapter two that Mary finds out she got the scholarship from a program wanting to see troubled kids make something of themselves. And Mary has, in the past, tried to get help, but just needed a little push. It’s the Make It or Break It Scholarship—a program that says “Hey, if you get help and attend our X meetings, we will help pay for your college. And we will even help you out more if you help other kids pull their head out of their ass.”

So Mary says yes, gets her shit straight, gets the scholarship, and helps other kids excel who are struggling in life. She does marvelously.

So now the writer has to explain themselves, and if they are doing this in public—let’s say a forum or a critique group—they now look like a complete ass who doesn’t know how to take criticism. I’ve seen this with an author’s first paragraph; I’ve seen this with the first five pages; I’ve seen this in query letters.

I know what some are thinking. How are they supposed to know if it is or isn’t a flaw? Well, if you are reading a very small portion of the writer’s work, that could be a cue. I’m not saying don’t ask questions—I’m saying if an author goes to answer those questions, that generally does not mean they are butt hurt. They are just setting the record straight.

I am also saying the writer probably wants your confusion so you will read the story and find out for yourself. If all facts aren’t laid out on the table right away, it could be for a reason: they want you to read their story and they want you to be curious.

But saying Mary’s eyes are brown in chapter one but not in chapter two, however, is a problem.


  1. I totally look forward to and dread critiques on my work. I'm excited for the chance to improve my story, but don't like all the work then required to clean it up. =) What can I say? Sometimes I'm lazy!

  2. I almost always trust the writer and am willing to sit back and see how things play out. Though if i'm worried it may actually be a problem, i'll leave a comment, but make sure that i state that it's only a problem if it's not addressed later in the text i can't see

  3. @ Leandra

    Lol me too! I was so lazy when it came to revisions on my other novel. This one, however, I am finding to be relaxing. :)

    @Sarah Ahiers

    I totally agree with you. If something sticks out, I will generally say something. I mean, if it's helpful that's what I was going for in the first place--to help! :)