Are You Critiquing the Writing or Crushing the Writer?

I went to a writer’s group meeting the other day. It was my first meeting since Indie Author Day, so I paid attention to the critiques given. One of the gentlemen read something written by a young man he has chosen to help get published since the man could not attend that evening.

He read a very rough draft. As I listened, I was interested in how the story was developing. I think we all recognized that the writer had raw talent. As the feedback began, I watched the reader’s face. I couldn’t tell if he was surprised by how much he got when he asked. Many of the more experienced fiction writers talked about tense shifting. Someone else made a contribution to the feedback. I mentioned what I found confusing and why I didn’t think certain things were necessary – at least for a first chapter.

I continued watching his expression and saw it change to almost looking as if he had been hurt. I don’t think he was as hurt as he would have been had he wrote it. He said he appreciated hearing thoughts about how the writer could improve. As I drove home, I wondered how I would have reacted to have so many comments at once. (We did take turns and take our time explaining why we had our views.) I understand negative comments can be extremely helpful depending on what the reason for the comment is; however, it can still hurt to have people dissect something you may have poured years into writing.

Today, I witnessed something similar but harsher. A writer asked if we would read a book based on a blurb – a decent question. The wording was confusing, so I couldn’t tell where the book was going and why I was reading the scene I read. I explained what was confusing to me. Several other authors, who are full-time and successful in their writing career, gave some very helpful critiques and suggestions on how to correct or strengthen what was written. Others felt the need to post memes, and one woman went so far as to use profanity in her negative one-sentence reply.

Maybe people feel that they can respond however they’d like to whomever they’d like because they are hiding behind a computer screen. Maybe they feel that having a certain income or level of experience gives them the right to belittle and mock others who are sincerely asking for help. Maybe not having a “connection” to the person allows them the ability to disconnect and stop caring about how other people feel.

I don’t know what it is, but I find it rude, tacky, and irritating.

Aside from the fact that the response violates the rules for the group, it shows me how heartless people can be. How long ago was it that this cursing writer needed assistance, especially to still be in a help group? I would think that writers would remember the power of the pen and put themselves in the shoes of the person asking for help.

Amazingly, the original poster let the cursing and rude comments run off her back and said she examined both positive and negative comments so that she could apply them. What she said is true. We do have to toughen up to hear and accept constructive criticism, which I have learned. People who aren’t attached to our writing are able to see errors much more clearly than we can, which is why having a writing support group and other professionals in the field read our material is crucial.

However, I would still hope that someone who is in the position to help someone else coming behind him would speak what needs to be said in a manner that still shows respect for the writer who is clearly trying. It’s not difficult to be courteous.

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