Critiques should be given in a professional manner. If you receive a critique that you feel contains snarky, rude, or offensive remarks, ask a few trusted friends to read the notes. Your sensitivity to criticism might cause you to read an emotion into the comments that was never meant.
But if your friends also feel the observations were out of line, report the incident to the director of the conference. You need to grow a thick skin in the publishing business, but in the Christian arena, there’s no room for so-called experts who take potshots at other writers.
I’ve critiqued many manuscripts. Some were excellent. Some were good. Some needed a lot of work. Some had so many mistakes that it was difficult to know where to start on my notes.
This past weekend one of my author friends and I had a conversation about the proper way to critique a manuscript. I asked her, “How do you handle a critique on a manuscript that’s bleeding to death?” Her response? “I triage.”
Triage is a practice used by medical professionals or soldiers on the battlefield to determine who will survive and who will not make it. The walking wounded are asked to move to another area so that medics can determine who is incapacitated and cannot move. Some of the wounded are conscious. Some are not. Some are bleeding profusely. Medics stop the bleeding first to determine the extent of the injuries.
In a similar way manuscripts go through a form of triage. We suggest how to stop the bleeding. We look for a few major errors that if treated first can help the manuscript live another day. The author receives a report with suggestions on how to tackle those key areas that need the most attention.
If your piece is one of the walking wounded, it’s easier to spot a problem area and offer suggestions on how you might fix it. The piece has no gaping wounds, but it may have been hit by shrapnel and needs a good self-edit to dig out the parts that don’t belong or to flush out too many adjectives or adverbs, or correct head-hopping syndrome in your POV. Surgery is minor.
Just like a physician or medic, the one who critiques your manuscript has a responsibility to help you, not to harm you. You should be given clear suggestions, and the expert also should tell you what you did right. If your manuscript has legs, that’s a big plus, and the person helping you should encourage you to work hard on the rehab of your manuscript.
Here’s a tip. Reexamine a critique you received in the past. Through the prism of your current experience, decide what comments were valuable and which ones were not. Do a triage of your own. Take the helpful criticism and use it to resuscitate your piece. Then throw the snarky comments in the trash.
Please let me know how today’s blog has helped you. This becomes a two-way conversation when you post a comment. Often I jump back on the blog during the day and will answer your questions or respond to your comments. I have both published and unpublished authors who read The Roving Editor, and we’d love to hear from you so that we can learn from your experience. Let’s talk!