Monday, July 5, 2010

Criticism vs Praise

People ask for criticism, but they only want praise.
--W. Somerset Maugham

As writers, we are an insecure lot. We need praise to validate the time we pour into our craft. We need someone to tell us we are getting it right.

But the problem with praise is that it won’t push us to do better. Praise won’t give us any new insight. We can’t learn from praise.

We also need to seek out constructive criticism. If we approach this kind of criticism like a learning tool, then it will push us to improve. It will help us to grow as writers. It will teach us where we might be getting things wrong. It will open our eyes to other perspectives.

Even established writers benefit from being open to criticism. We never stop learning.

What’s the worst kind of critique you’ve ever received? What’s the best?


  1. "I like it." is definitely the worst and the useless ting one can hear. I like to hear what people like in what I do, just liking it is like a pointless lie. If one like something, there is more to be said than just blind affirmation.

    Even better is to know what is not good about the freshly finished piece. But it's not always easy to get that kind of response. People don't like giving bad critiques, as they are afraid the author will be hurt. Or that they are not competent to give their own opinion.

    I put a how to for asking a critique so the artist can get a valuable information and feedback. Hopefully, it will help.

  2. I have to agree with that. "I like it" can be disappointing especially if you know something is wrong with your piece but you can't quite put a finger on it.

    And yes, the trick is how you ask for critiquing :)

  3. hearing what you've done right can be helpful, if it's not hollow praise. but what you say is VERY true! great point!

  4. The worst critique is when they say something is bad but they don't tell you what. For example: "I don't like your character." What!? Why not? What don't you like about her or him? Are they cliche or boring or what?


  5. Great points. Again...Thank you and God bless.

  6. Aspiring - for sure, praise is still helpful.

    Clarissa - lol yes! I've had that happen. It's infuriating.

    RCUBEs - thanks :)

  7. Praise is good but honesty critisism is better because it helps me improve. Amateur writer like me deserves constructive criticism and a good praise to follow.

  8. Hi Lynda,
    Great blog! I actually like good critiques from my critique partners where they challenge me to write better. I recnently had to revise the entire last half of my latest WIP. My story arc didn't work for my MC and they pointed it out for me. WHen I got over my disappointment and made the changes-- I love it so much better! That's what I'm hoping to get from my Beta readers--some meaningful critiques or otherwise it will mean not much to me. I can have hubby read it if I want all praise!LOL

  9. Psyche - oh yes, praise AND constructive criticism go so well together :)

    Terri - Glad you like. Sounds like you have a great group you can trust to get helpful suggestions to your work.

  10. The worst are words that make it personal, as in an attack on the person, rather than a constructive criticism of the work.

    Straight From Hel

  11. Yes, Helen, that's the kind of criticism that should be ignored, although it can sometimes be the hardest to ignore.

  12. I find writers a compassionate bunch, so haven't had any scathing critiques, but during University I would say my least helpful responses to creative writing pieces were merely grades and no comments (even the high grades). I'd be left wondering what I could do to push it forward, to make it better, because I don't think I can ever achieve perfection in my writing, but will continue to grow with helpful advice from others.

    Best critique I received was on for Dog Show Detective. The reader pointed out that the MC's mother did all the work preparing the dog for show and the MC just sauntered in and won ribbons - not a good way to gain sympathy. That really helped me revise my whole story and make my MC more like the potential reader (ie having to work to earn the rewards).

  13. I thought I replied to this, but the comment didn't show up..or something.

    Anyways... Personal attacks are definitely the worst kind of criticism. These we should ignore.

  14. My group is still learning the critique process yet they always help me. I have grown as a writer tremendously over the past year.

    Feedback from an editor was a valuable gift to me, too.

  15. It's good to have a critique group that is learning together.


I'd love to hear your opinion. Thanks for leaving a comment.