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Honest Criticism: What Every Writer Needs

by Fay Lamb

A writer who will not listen to honest criticism of his work, who continues to march solo into his writing adventure without heeding the suggestions of others, is unlikely to fulfill his dreams of publication. And this is why critique partners are essential if you wish to grow and to achieve success as an author.

A critique partner is often better than a best friend, and many times a critique partnership will develop bonds that are not easily broken. Why? We expect an honest evaluation from those who partner with us in our writing career. Partnering in critique is definitely a give and take scenario, and it is a relationship not to be entered into lightly.

There are several factors an author should consider when deciding to join a critique group:

1. What style of critique best suits you? There are one-on-one critiques versus group critiques. Either scenario can be accomplished face-to-face or online. Are you a people person? Do you love to get out and make new friends? Are you fearless in your writing endeavors, putting it all out there for others to criticize? Then you will most likely thrive in a face-to-face group or friendship. If you prefer the quietness of your home, digesting the truth is small doses, you might consider an online critique group.

2. Would you rather work with individuals who write in your genre of choice or do you welcome feedback from writers with diverse backgrounds? If you’re writing science fiction, you might discover that writers of historical fiction or contemporary romance may not understand your genre unless they read or write it. Likewise, a young adult author may not get the feedback they desire from a writer who works solely with women’s fiction.

3. How much time can you devote to critique? Again, critiquing is a give and take scenario. Setting boundaries is important. Also, you should never enter into the critique process without being willing to give, in the least, as much as you receive.

4. Can you provide and obtain honest feedback in a loving manner? Much is said about the sandwich method of putting a negative comment between two positive ones. In the midst of real critique, this isn’t always realistic. However, whether giving or receiving a critique, care should be taken to keep an even, optimistic tone-whether verbally or written-and to never enter into battle with our critique partners. Remember, the goal for each of us is publication.

If you are interested in learning to critique or in having a steady critique of your work, American Christian Fiction Writers offers you that opportunity in our Scribes large critique group. From there, many of our authors move into lasting critique partnerships in our small groups. If you’re interested, visit our website and look under “Get Connected.” Sign up for the CritStarters orientation which takes place the first two business days of each month, and come join in the fellowship and start making lasting critique friendships.


Fay Lamb works as an acquisition/copyeditor for Pelican Book Group (White Rose Publishing and Harbourlight Books), offers her services as a freelance editor, and is an author of Christian romance and romantic suspense. Because of Me, her debut romantic suspense novel was released in February by Treble Heart Books/Mountainview Publishing.

Fay co-moderates the large Scribes Critique Group and manages the smaller Scribes critique groups. For her efforts, she was the recipient of the ACFW Members Service Award in 2010. In 2012, she was also elected to serve as secretary on ACFW’s Operating Board.

Fay and her husband, Marc, reside in Titusville, Florida, where multi-generations of their families have lived. The legacy continues with their two married sons and five grandchildren.

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3 Responses to Honest Criticism: What Every Writer Needs

  1. Fay,
    I never realized how invaluable the crit group would be to me. I have learned so much about the craft of writing. More importantly, I have “met” many friends I trust with the words I write. The support, encouragement, and constructive criticism have completely changed my writer’s mindset. Thanks for your part in that. The crit group ROCKS!
    Linden

  2. Diane Chase says:

    Fay, you once commented on my wip sent through the crit loop…”need to drop the stage directions.” Those wise words now guide me when I write. I am grateful for the honesty you endorse here and for living it as you mentor others…like me.

  3. Kristen says:

    The partners in my Scribes breakout group are the best. They’re encouraging and helpful. Scribes is one of the most valuable services ACFW offers. Thanks, Fay, for herding all us cats!