One of the most fundamental tenets in The Critique MD’s philosophy about giving feedback is that the goal of giving a critique is to help a writer write her story* in the way she wants to write it.
The corollary? Refrain from giving her feedback about how you would write her story.
Hopefully, this seems obvious, i.e., that critiquing someone else’s work is not about you.
But no matter how obvious, in practice this tenet can be deceivingly tough, as it requires an imagination shift out of your own storytelling sensibility. Meaning even if you have only a few pages to review and you don’t know the writer well, you are attuning yourself to the best of your ability to the other writer’s style, voice, cadence, intention, etc. Then using your knowledge of writing best practices (I’m skeptical of writing rules) to help her strengthen her story.
If you catch yourself saying to another writer, “I would do it this way . . . “ or “I would write this like this . . .”, challenge yourself to shift a little more into the other writer’s sensibility. Even if you say the same thing just without the leading phrase of “I would do it like . . .”, it helps.
Does this make sense? Still working out how to communicate this point, so all feedback is welcome. There will certainly be practical tips about giving critiques coming in future posts, but the best tips can go awry if not grounded in fundamental principles.
One practical tip on this front: If you do notice yourself saying or writing, This is how I would write this . . . to another author, then AWESOME! Your awareness is growing. That’s a first step to changing behavior. In this case, just say oops-a-daisy and rephrase. Even feel free to humbly tell the writer or your writing group that you are working to improve your feedback skills and ask their patience as you make adjustments. And if you really want to be brave, you could ask for feedback on how you deliver feedback. How meta would that be?
Onward in kindness,
Christine Carron, The Critique MD
* Or his story
Look for news coming soon about The Critique MD’s first live webinar course:
A Whole-Brain Approach to Giving and Receiving Critiques.