Continuing with my advice to writers, I do hope you will take this.

Beware of toxic critiquers. These are people who trash your writing, all the way from your grammar usage, to your plotting, characters, descriptions, and even voice.

A friend of mine, a beginning writer, ran into such a person at a writer’s group not too long ago. She was devastated. The critiquer should not be allowed near another person’s writing ever again. She had no idea about how to give a good critique, and she could destroy beginning writers with her sharp red pencil and sharper tongue.

Fortunately, after my friend’s first impulse to shred her work, she came to her senses with the help of another friend, her husband, and an email from me to let me see her work before she did anything drastic.

I found her premise solid. I found the writing itself very good for a beginner. I liked her main character. I even liked her main character’s dog. I liked the set-up of the story. All of that bodes well for more good stuff to come.

Sure, there was room for improvement. But I could tell she would take advice, she would work hard and most likely finish writing this novel.

A good critiquer does three things:

  1. First, tell the writer what she liked about the piece overall.
  2. Mention a few things that need improvement (fewer for new writers, more details for more advanced writers).
  3. Tell the writer again what she especially liked and urge the writer to produce more for the critiquer to look at.

Never belittle, condemn the whole submission, or only say negative things. There is always something good in everything you see. Some great sentence. A great character, description, premise. I don’t understand people who are so harsh and mean. What does it get them?

Have you ever run into such a critiquer? How did it make you feel? What did you do with the work after the critique? I’d love to hear from you.

5 thoughts on “TOXIC CRITIQUERS

    • If you really want to becmoe a better writer, becmoe a critique PARTNER. That means you exchange mss with other writers just like you. Critiquing others’ work & having them critique yours simultaneously will improve your skills more than you dreamed possible. Do it over & over. Don’t pay someone. That’ll teach you squat. You have to give back as you’re receiving. To find CPs, use Internet sites like AbsoluteWrite, Ladies Who Critique, and best if all, use Nathan Bransford’s forums. These folks are all serious writers who are looking for the exact same thing you are. But you have to be willing to critique, as well. And most important of all, you better thicken up that skin of yours. This business is brutal. You won’t survive if you don’t toughen up.

      • Agreed, Cynlee. I have an excellent critique partner, and I have belonged to several critique groups. There are some very harsh people out there, though, who can really hurt a beginner’s feelings. And I don’t think that’s necessary. We can be kind in our critiques while getting the points across about improving. I subscribe to Nathan’s blog, but was unaware of his forums. I’ll have to check that out. Thanks for commenting on my blog.

  1. Jan, your post brought back an evening in a group I’d been in for a couple of years. One evening another writer took a great dislike to the story I was working on and gave it a scathing critique, going from item to item in her review. She didn’t seem malicious, just intent on pointing out everything she thought I’d done wrong. It went on for almost the entire evening. It would have been devastating if I hadn’t already published (in nonfiction) and had a good sense of what my work was worth. That’s was basically the end of my participation in that group. She went on to do the same thing to other writers who were badly hurt. I had a long talk with one of them, to give her a better perspective on the writer in question. It amazes me that people can be so destructive and insensitive. But I went on to publish fiction and the nasty critiquer did not.

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