Writing

5 tips to give and receive criticism

As writers and bloggers, we put our work out there for the whole world to see. It doesn’t matter if it’s creative pieces of fiction or poetry, or nonfiction narratives or even opinion or humour articles. It’s out there for people to read. With reading, comes judgement. Some readers voice their opinions openly while others may prefer not to say anything. Either way, everyone has an opinion.

So when Shailaja posed a question about criticism to bloggers part of a Facebook group, most people said they’d prefer to receive criticism on the actual post in question with a few preferring to receive a private email and fewer preferring no feedback. Each to their own, of course.

As a blogger for eight years, I had no qualms putting my writing out there and receiving brickbats for some of my opinions. I figured I had a thick skin. Then I enrolled in a creative writing course at uni and realised we had to read our stories {or parts of it} out loud and receive feedback. In person. That’s when I realised I had to develop a much thicker skin. It’s one thing to read a comment on the screen but a whole different experience when people read your work in front of you and then give you feedback to your face. But what I did learn is that when it comes to writing, there is a way to give criticism which ultimately assists in receiving it too.

Tips for giving criticism:

  • Always start with the positive. Tell the writer what works in a piece of writing or what’s going well. Tell them what you like. Is it the opening paragraph? Is the story itself? Is it a particular character?
  • Move on to what can be improved. By now, the writer feels a little more confident than they probably felt when they had to read their work for everyone. This helps them accept what might need to change a bit more. Here you can tell them about holes in the structure, the voice, the plot itself.
  • Then tell them what needs to go. Is there something that just does not make sense? Does the ending come about way too quickly? Is there a scene that’s too cliched? As far as possible, then sum up with something positive.
  • Be specific. It’s so important to be specific with your criticism. Point out the lines that are working, point out the paragraphs that are not. Mention any great words used. Catch the clichés.
  • Remember, yours is not the only view. Yours is but one opinion and when it comes to writing so try not to assume you are right. You are entitled to your opinion, of course. Try not be an arsehole while giving feedback.

Tips for receiving criticism:

  • Be open. When you are putting your writing out there, be prepared to receive feedback. Remember, criticism isn’t always negative. It’s just someone’s opinion on what might work better. When you are too close to a subject matter, it’s hard to see how it could be different and this is where having others read it works. So be open to feedback and know that you don’t have to make all changes suggested.
  • Listen carefully to what people are saying about your work. If it’s in person, make notes. If it’s on the screen, well, read carefully and understand where they might be coming from. Try not to get defensive and talk over them or dismiss their views straightaway.
  • Always ask questions to clarify. If someone has suggested to change your ending, ask specifically what doesn’t work. If they think there are too many clichés, ask them to clarify where exactly these errors are.
  • Highlight specific areas you might want feedback on. One thing we learnt at uni was to actually tell people what you might be looking for. Tell your readers you want specific feedback on your beginning or your ending or maybe a certain scene. This way, they can give you constructive criticism for the piece as a whole as well as focus extra energy on that part which you need help with.
  • Remind yourself why you are getting feedback in the first place. If your goal is to improve your writing, then you need to reframe any negative thinking around getting feedback for it. Of course, if your goal is just to write and be told ‘it’s great’ then you need to reconsider your audience. Once you are clear about your goal, you will find criticism easier to take.

After 18 months of putting my work out there, I am definitely more open to constructive criticism. In fact, I prefer that over people just telling me I write well. I have also improved how I give constructive criticism too and have learnt to be more specific than wishy-washy. Sure, there are still times when some of the feedback about my writing stings and I have to work hard after to look at it objectively. But in the end, I know it’s for the greater good.

How are you at taking criticism regarding your writing? What about with giving criticism? 

Do share!

***Linking with Jess for IBOT and Alicia for Open Slather***

Until next time,

Cheers!!!

SANCH_sig1

 

 

 

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  • Natalie @ our parallel connection
    January 5, 2016 at 8:11 pm

    You must be better at this than me. I will pretend I am not taking it personally but I need time to digest the criticism before answering

    • Sanch @ Living my Imperfect Life
      January 5, 2016 at 8:13 pm

      I’ve gotten better Natalie…nothing like throwing yourself in the deep end and reading out a story to 18 other people and receiving feedback on the spot! For 6 different units!

  • Natalie @ our parallel connection
    January 5, 2016 at 8:11 pm

    You must be better at this than me. I will pretend I am not taking it personally but I need time to digest the criticism before answering

    • Sanch @ Living my Imperfect Life
      January 5, 2016 at 8:13 pm

      I’ve gotten better Natalie…nothing like throwing yourself in the deep end and reading out a story to 18 other people and receiving feedback on the spot! For 6 different units!

  • JM Peace
    January 5, 2016 at 8:29 pm

    Great post! Good feedback is absolutely invaluable. It is so hard to be objective about something you’ve written yourself when you’re immersed in it. You need to find the people whose opinions you trust. I also always try and lead off with something I liked about someone else’s writing. It is very easy to destroy someone when they show you a piece of yourself.

    • Sanch @ Living my Imperfect Life
      January 5, 2016 at 8:53 pm

      Thanks J M! Totally agree on needing people you trust although in a class sometimes, that’s hard. But then again, most people in a class are mature enough to know the etiquette of feedback. As you said, in the end, it’s sharing a piece of yourself in your work. It needs to be handled with care.

  • JM Peace
    January 5, 2016 at 8:29 pm

    Great post! Good feedback is absolutely invaluable. It is so hard to be objective about something you’ve written yourself when you’re immersed in it. You need to find the people whose opinions you trust. I also always try and lead off with something I liked about someone else’s writing. It is very easy to destroy someone when they show you a piece of yourself.

    • Sanch @ Living my Imperfect Life
      January 5, 2016 at 8:53 pm

      Thanks J M! Totally agree on needing people you trust although in a class sometimes, that’s hard. But then again, most people in a class are mature enough to know the etiquette of feedback. As you said, in the end, it’s sharing a piece of yourself in your work. It needs to be handled with care.

  • Varsh
    January 5, 2016 at 8:46 pm

    I haven’t yet received any negative feedback, thankfully. Or may be I did not take it negatively. Anything that helps me grow and improve is ok with me. While I do appreciate people telling me what they did or did not like, I prefer sticking to my style, with a few amends here and there.
    Varsh recently posted…Sneezing AuntyMy Profile

    • Sanch @ Living my Imperfect Life
      January 5, 2016 at 8:54 pm

      I guess that’s the thin about constructive criticism — it’s not meant to be taken negatively. It’s about what can be improved and what can help you grow as a writer. 🙂

  • Varsh
    January 5, 2016 at 8:46 pm

    I haven’t yet received any negative feedback, thankfully. Or may be I did not take it negatively. Anything that helps me grow and improve is ok with me. While I do appreciate people telling me what they did or did not like, I prefer sticking to my style, with a few amends here and there.
    Varsh recently posted…Sneezing AuntyMy Profile

    • Sanch @ Living my Imperfect Life
      January 5, 2016 at 8:54 pm

      I guess that’s the thin about constructive criticism — it’s not meant to be taken negatively. It’s about what can be improved and what can help you grow as a writer. 🙂

  • Shailaja
    January 5, 2016 at 9:24 pm

    I love this post and it mirrors what I feel about receiving and giving criticism. I love constructive criticism because it helps me grow. Without growth we tend to stagnate and that’s terrible for everyone.

    • Sanch @ Living my Imperfect Life
      January 5, 2016 at 9:36 pm

      Totally agree with you on all counts! It’s this constructive criticism during uni that helped my writing too. I am actively seeking writing groups at the moment so I can continue to grow and write consistently.

  • Shailaja
    January 5, 2016 at 9:24 pm

    I love this post and it mirrors what I feel about receiving and giving criticism. I love constructive criticism because it helps me grow. Without growth we tend to stagnate and that’s terrible for everyone.

    • Sanch @ Living my Imperfect Life
      January 5, 2016 at 9:36 pm

      Totally agree with you on all counts! It’s this constructive criticism during uni that helped my writing too. I am actively seeking writing groups at the moment so I can continue to grow and write consistently.

  • Vishal Kataria
    January 5, 2016 at 9:36 pm

    Loved how you have laid out accepting and dishing out criticism.

    I believe that while accepting criticism, we need the skill of peeling off personal or irrelevant aspects and focus on the ones which are actually helpful more than a thick skin. And while offering criticism, it’s important to be specific (as you mentioned in #4) and address the post rather than the person or his traits.

    How would you suggest we request for and offer criticism? Is it better done privately or out in the open?
    Vishal Kataria recently posted…Stop Saying “I Don’t Have Time”. You’re Lying to YourselfMy Profile

    • Sanch @ Living my Imperfect Life
      January 5, 2016 at 9:43 pm

      Welcome here Vishal. You’re right in that while accepting criticism, we shouldn’t take it personally as it’s about the writing and not us {even though sometimes, it’s hard to separate the two!}

      As for whether it’s public or private, I think that’s an individual choice. I am ok with it being public. So I’m okay if I receive feedback directly on the post especially as I’ve now had experience being given feedback to my face. But some people are probably not as comfortable and may prefer an email instead or one-to-one in person.

  • Vishal Kataria
    January 5, 2016 at 9:36 pm

    Loved how you have laid out accepting and dishing out criticism.

    I believe that while accepting criticism, we need the skill of peeling off personal or irrelevant aspects and focus on the ones which are actually helpful more than a thick skin. And while offering criticism, it’s important to be specific (as you mentioned in #4) and address the post rather than the person or his traits.

    How would you suggest we request for and offer criticism? Is it better done privately or out in the open?
    Vishal Kataria recently posted…Stop Saying “I Don’t Have Time”. You’re Lying to YourselfMy Profile

    • Sanch @ Living my Imperfect Life
      January 5, 2016 at 9:43 pm

      Welcome here Vishal. You’re right in that while accepting criticism, we shouldn’t take it personally as it’s about the writing and not us {even though sometimes, it’s hard to separate the two!}

      As for whether it’s public or private, I think that’s an individual choice. I am ok with it being public. So I’m okay if I receive feedback directly on the post especially as I’ve now had experience being given feedback to my face. But some people are probably not as comfortable and may prefer an email instead or one-to-one in person.

  • Soumya
    January 5, 2016 at 10:36 pm

    Oh God, I have missed this place 🙂

    I agree with your points on both giving and receiving criticism. It is very important to be specific while critiquing someone’s work. I do it often and I leave a comment with the same. But only after listing out the positives and I try not to sound preachy about it.

    As far as receiving criticism is concerned, I take it in my stride. I know that not many of them like my style of writing or the fact that I’m so upfront. I accept some genuine concerns and I carefully discard those unnecessary comments made by someone who just hates the fact that I can write what I want to. I agree with you on this. Once we put something out, then we need to be responsible for everything that comes our way. Be it a post or a picture on Facebook.
    Soumya recently posted…In Sickness And In HealthMy Profile

  • Soumya
    January 5, 2016 at 10:36 pm

    Oh God, I have missed this place 🙂

    I agree with your points on both giving and receiving criticism. It is very important to be specific while critiquing someone’s work. I do it often and I leave a comment with the same. But only after listing out the positives and I try not to sound preachy about it.

    As far as receiving criticism is concerned, I take it in my stride. I know that not many of them like my style of writing or the fact that I’m so upfront. I accept some genuine concerns and I carefully discard those unnecessary comments made by someone who just hates the fact that I can write what I want to. I agree with you on this. Once we put something out, then we need to be responsible for everything that comes our way. Be it a post or a picture on Facebook.
    Soumya recently posted…In Sickness And In HealthMy Profile

  • Kala Ravi
    January 5, 2016 at 11:49 pm

    Great pointers here! Constructive criticism sounds good, but I am not sure how many people welcome even that! Rules remain same in all relations I guess, be it a marriage or be it writing, one will acknowledge and even welcome criticism only when it is meted out in the right way! Loved this post!

  • Kala Ravi
    January 5, 2016 at 11:49 pm

    Great pointers here! Constructive criticism sounds good, but I am not sure how many people welcome even that! Rules remain same in all relations I guess, be it a marriage or be it writing, one will acknowledge and even welcome criticism only when it is meted out in the right way! Loved this post!

  • Lata Sunil
    January 6, 2016 at 12:13 am

    Very useful post Sanch. Loved it and will practice it.

  • Lata Sunil
    January 6, 2016 at 12:13 am

    Very useful post Sanch. Loved it and will practice it.

  • Avada Kedavra
    January 6, 2016 at 9:34 am

    Loved all the points Sanch. I usually avoid criticizing someone’s writing. Just because I did not like something, it doesn’t mean the article itself is bad. But I do take criticism’s seriously – must not do that.

    • Avada Kedavra
      January 6, 2016 at 9:35 am

      criticisms * (I hate autocorrect)

  • Avada Kedavra
    January 6, 2016 at 9:34 am

    Loved all the points Sanch. I usually avoid criticizing someone’s writing. Just because I did not like something, it doesn’t mean the article itself is bad. But I do take criticism’s seriously – must not do that.

    • Avada Kedavra
      January 6, 2016 at 9:35 am

      criticisms * (I hate autocorrect)

  • EssentiallyJess
    January 6, 2016 at 2:49 pm

    I need to get better at it. It’s something I do struggle with a lot. In fact, I will often hold back opinions because I’m not a fan of criticism. I’m hoping to be braver.
    EssentiallyJess recently posted…The Grinch Who Stole New Year’s #IBOTMy Profile

  • EssentiallyJess
    January 6, 2016 at 2:49 pm

    I need to get better at it. It’s something I do struggle with a lot. In fact, I will often hold back opinions because I’m not a fan of criticism. I’m hoping to be braver.
    EssentiallyJess recently posted…The Grinch Who Stole New Year’s #IBOTMy Profile

  • Deb @ inner compass designs
    January 6, 2016 at 9:42 pm

    I think it helps when it is truly constructive criticism, then the writer gets help/other viewpoints vs someone who just does not like the writing and says so…rather than simply moving on.
    Deb @ inner compass designs recently posted…How do YOU define things for yourself?My Profile

  • Deb @ inner compass designs
    January 6, 2016 at 9:42 pm

    I think it helps when it is truly constructive criticism, then the writer gets help/other viewpoints vs someone who just does not like the writing and says so…rather than simply moving on.
    Deb @ inner compass designs recently posted…How do YOU define things for yourself?My Profile

  • Rachna
    January 7, 2016 at 2:12 pm

    Totally makes sense, all the points. For me what matters the most is how the criticism is worded and what the actual criticism was. I am absolutely open to criticism. I don’t mind a differing point of view either. But, it must be done impersonally and not descending down to personal name calling. Good tips there.

  • Rachna
    January 7, 2016 at 2:12 pm

    Totally makes sense, all the points. For me what matters the most is how the criticism is worded and what the actual criticism was. I am absolutely open to criticism. I don’t mind a differing point of view either. But, it must be done impersonally and not descending down to personal name calling. Good tips there.

  • Alicia
    January 7, 2016 at 2:31 pm

    Criticism helps us grow and learn, but yes, it can sting. As long as we use it to become better and not let it hold us back. Mostly I am my worst critic!
    Alicia recently posted…See ya later 2015.My Profile

  • Alicia
    January 7, 2016 at 2:31 pm

    Criticism helps us grow and learn, but yes, it can sting. As long as we use it to become better and not let it hold us back. Mostly I am my worst critic!
    Alicia recently posted…See ya later 2015.My Profile

  • Beat About the Book
    January 7, 2016 at 3:38 pm

    Valuable pointers Sanch. If criticism is given with the right intent I think it benefits both parties and forges bonds of friendship. If it’s given to put someone down or with the intent that the suggestions HAVE to be accepted it goes all wrong. I liked your ideas on giving criticism too. Those are the exact pointers I keep in mind while reviewing a book.
    Beat About the Book recently posted…Z is for Zoya Singh SolankiMy Profile

  • Beat About the Book
    January 7, 2016 at 3:38 pm

    Valuable pointers Sanch. If criticism is given with the right intent I think it benefits both parties and forges bonds of friendship. If it’s given to put someone down or with the intent that the suggestions HAVE to be accepted it goes all wrong. I liked your ideas on giving criticism too. Those are the exact pointers I keep in mind while reviewing a book.
    Beat About the Book recently posted…Z is for Zoya Singh SolankiMy Profile

  • Hugzilla
    January 7, 2016 at 10:32 pm

    Oooooh my goodness, I have never done anything like that – how intimidating! It makes my toes curl just thinking about it. Awesome tips though – I’d like to think I’d handle it kind of like that. LOL!

  • Hugzilla
    January 7, 2016 at 10:32 pm

    Oooooh my goodness, I have never done anything like that – how intimidating! It makes my toes curl just thinking about it. Awesome tips though – I’d like to think I’d handle it kind of like that. LOL!

  • Shantala
    January 8, 2016 at 5:08 am

    Valuable pointers. Your thoughts echo mine on this.

    There is one thing that I would like to add – I feel that any critique has to be politely worded – one can be kind, yet honest.
    Shantala recently posted…Fitness Goals for 2016 – Quarterly Tracking and Baby StepsMy Profile

  • Shantala
    January 8, 2016 at 5:08 am

    Valuable pointers. Your thoughts echo mine on this.

    There is one thing that I would like to add – I feel that any critique has to be politely worded – one can be kind, yet honest.
    Shantala recently posted…Fitness Goals for 2016 – Quarterly Tracking and Baby StepsMy Profile

  • Vinitha
    January 10, 2016 at 10:25 am

    This is a very valuable post.Thank you for sharing, Sanch! I will definitely accept constructive criticism from you, Sanch. 🙂
    Vinitha recently posted…New Year goals #MondayMusings #MicroblogMondaysMy Profile

  • Vinitha
    January 10, 2016 at 10:25 am

    This is a very valuable post.Thank you for sharing, Sanch! I will definitely accept constructive criticism from you, Sanch. 🙂
    Vinitha recently posted…New Year goals #MondayMusings #MicroblogMondaysMy Profile

  • Vasantha Vivek
    January 12, 2016 at 6:24 pm

    I’m always open for positive criticism….

  • Vasantha Vivek
    January 12, 2016 at 6:24 pm

    I’m always open for positive criticism….

  • Beloo Mehra
    January 18, 2016 at 5:59 pm

    A great post, Sanch! Some valuable tips there. And I am all for constructive criticism. But one thing about giving criticism (esp in the blog-o-sphere) that occurs to me is this — some of the blog writings are so personal and written more for expressing one’s feelings and emotions, even quite raw at times, that often it doesn’t feel appropriate to give any sort of criticism. Critique makes more sense when the writing is more issue-based, taking a particular position. Also, I am always hesitant to give any language/grammar related criticism. Maybe the blogger is not really interested in improving his/her writing, but writing more as a personal hobby. Who am I to judge in that case?
    Any thoughts on this?
    Beloo Mehra recently posted…Behind the Blog NewsMy Profile

    • Sanch @ Living my Imperfect Life
      January 18, 2016 at 7:01 pm

      Thank Beloo. When I was studying writing, we were providing constructive criticism on people’s short stories — in other words, very personal stuff. You’re right in that not everyone has the same taste, yet, feedback focuses on whether the story makes sense, whether it flows, whether there are clunky bits those sort of things. Hope that makes sense. Of course, all writing is personal and hence it must be done in the format of

  • Beloo Mehra
    January 18, 2016 at 5:59 pm

    A great post, Sanch! Some valuable tips there. And I am all for constructive criticism. But one thing about giving criticism (esp in the blog-o-sphere) that occurs to me is this — some of the blog writings are so personal and written more for expressing one’s feelings and emotions, even quite raw at times, that often it doesn’t feel appropriate to give any sort of criticism. Critique makes more sense when the writing is more issue-based, taking a particular position. Also, I am always hesitant to give any language/grammar related criticism. Maybe the blogger is not really interested in improving his/her writing, but writing more as a personal hobby. Who am I to judge in that case?
    Any thoughts on this?
    Beloo Mehra recently posted…Behind the Blog NewsMy Profile

    • Sanch @ Living my Imperfect Life
      January 18, 2016 at 7:01 pm

      Thank Beloo. When I was studying writing, we were providing constructive criticism on people’s short stories — in other words, very personal stuff. You’re right in that not everyone has the same taste, yet, feedback focuses on whether the story makes sense, whether it flows, whether there are clunky bits those sort of things. Hope that makes sense. Of course, all writing is personal and hence it must be done in the format of

  • Aditi
    January 19, 2016 at 9:23 am

    Great points Sanch! I am pro constructive criticism, be it in any field. One should be polite yet specific while giving criticism and the one receiving should have an open mind. It is also important not to forget that this is just a point of view…how you take it and inculcate in your art/work is up to you.
    Aditi recently posted…Exploring Amsterdam on Foot #TravelDiaries #blogchatterMy Profile

  • Aditi
    January 19, 2016 at 9:23 am

    Great points Sanch! I am pro constructive criticism, be it in any field. One should be polite yet specific while giving criticism and the one receiving should have an open mind. It is also important not to forget that this is just a point of view…how you take it and inculcate in your art/work is up to you.
    Aditi recently posted…Exploring Amsterdam on Foot #TravelDiaries #blogchatterMy Profile

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