Dreaming in Character

G.L. Jackson

Criticism vs. Constructive Criticism

4 Comments

Concrit. Everyone wants it, everyone asks for it. Providing constructive criticism shouldn’t be that hard. I was taught if I can’t say something nice then don’t say anything at all. While that’s generally a good motto, it doesn’t mean we can’t be truthful.

As with most things, being truthful comes with a caveat. If someone asks for unvarnished truth, fire away. If they don’t ask, it’s generally far kinder to provide constructive criticism. What is concrit? It’s being honest about the flaws while also applauding the things done well.

I read a lot of manuscripts. I used to edit professionally. It’s never difficult to applaud a great turn of phrase but still correct grammatical errors. Neither is it hard to give honest feedback highlighting both what didn’t work and what did work. I’ve never met most of the people who trust me to give feedback on their work, but that doesn’t give me carte blanche to be cruel simply because I might not have a face to go with the name.

The trend right now seems to be blunt regardless of the cost. I realize that the Internet is a big place filled with a lot of people, and when we don’t know those people it’s easy to forget that every writer has worked hard on their story and believes it’s something to be proud of. It can also be tough to remember that there are actual people behind the names on pages, and those people have feelings, wishes, dreams, good days, bad days. Why is it acceptable to focus solely on tearing them down without offering a hand to help them stand again? This happens in more areas besides editing, although that’s where I’ve noticed it most of late.

The silver lining is still there, though: when I see an editor behaving like an entitled ass online, I know not to hire or recommend them. Writers go to editors for help, not for wholesale mud-flinging. I’ve got my list going of people whose behavior has been elitist and reprehensible. To those people, I provide this piece of constructive critcism: you’ve saved me the trouble of ever having to consider working with you.

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Author: G.L. Jackson

Writer, reader, amateur photographer. Mostly, I just like pretending to be a different person each day of the week.

4 thoughts on “Criticism vs. Constructive Criticism

  1. I think the relationship with a writer and their editor has to feel natural. I certainly had some awful truths delivered by an editor, and I was only given positive feedback when I expressed my concern about my low motivation levels to write again..I think if I ever hire an editor again, I will ask for them to edit a few sample pages and see if we are the right fit for each other.
    Even at school, kids are fed a compliment sandiwch. This is a great read. I think you could add a bit more of this and less of this, but wow I can’t wait to read more. I saw your last post. Sorry to hear about your dad; I hope you are coping okay.

    Like

    • I’m sure I could have gone on forever with this line of thinking. Mostly, I wanted to get it off my chest.

      Always get a sample edit before committing! If they’re not willing, they’re not the right editor. Nothing squashes a writer’s eagerness more than a full plate of negative commentary. So many people these days think editing is all about the criticism and nothing else. I realize I might be an anomaly, but if we can’t pepper the negativity with praise, it’s going to ruin lives.

      Thanks for the comment & the well wishes. Much appreciated.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. When I’m giving notes to someone, usually a friend of some closeness or another, I keep one thing in mind… “Is this helpful?” or “How can I make this helpful?” Because concrit isn’t about my ego, it’s about someone else’s work. I spent enough time in writing classes with @theguyinyourMFA to know the difference between concrit and ego. 😉 As a result I also a have a very thick skin when it comes to notes on my writing.

    Case in point, I just read a fanfic piece for a friend and there was a sub-relationship that didn’t really work for me, but it was a note all about me. She’s writing this for fun, telling her I don’t like she choice of B couple will only make her feel bad. I made sure she got the notes and compliments that really made a difference to her main plot. I even added how I would fix my main issue, and I made sure she knew what I thought really worked well.

    I did have a experience, the last thing I read for someone I didn’t know well at all, where I needed to give some very hard truths. In keeping with the idea of being helpful, I used generalities with specific suggestions instead of marking up the page with red. I can only hope that I was helpful in the end because I felt bad giving so many negative notes.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Just because a note is about something negative doesn’t mean the criticism isn’t constructive. One of my favorite CPs makes the same grammatical errors all the time. I mark them up all the time. The red ink isn’t a bad thing in that case, it’s just an illustration on correcting the error. In my own work, I’m so appreciative when someone takes the time to tell me what worked and what didn’t. I’m also appreciative when they find typos and awkwardness. That’s why I ask for help.

      That’s why most people ask for editing help. I guess my whole point in writing this was to say that if someone approaches someone an editor for help, the editor should help instead of being a dick about it. Obviously it’s got to be a mutually beneficial working relationship – if either party thinks it’s not going to work, better off using a different editor. But to make mean comments just for the sake of seeming superior really pisses me off.

      When I’m editing for someone and find myself making a ton of corrections, I’ll always ask them if that’s the kind of feedback they want/are looking for. I’ll also always give the writer an out by telling them if they’re uncomfortable with that level of editing, just let me know and I’ll back off, or they don’t have to send me anything else. So much about the creative process is out of an author’s control once they’ve put the words on the page. I’m all for giving the reins back to the author on the subsequent steps along the way.

      Like

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