Apr 26, 2009

The Secret to Critique

By Shawnette Nielson

Once upon a time there was a magical kingdom where everyone was productive, happy, and talented. People wrote, sang, laughed, played, and danced with ease. When critiques were asked for, they were given honestly, concisely, and with love. There were never hard feelings, and charity abounded …

Yeah right :)

It is not a magical kingdom and writing is, in my opinion, one of the hardest talents to have and develop. When one writes, it becomes a part of them; their baby in a sense. And in order for one to progress in this talent we are left very little option but to hand our baby over, our unique creation which contains a portion of our soul, and allow it to be critiqued by any number of people. Sometimes we are congratulated, and simply given sage advice to help further its growth. Other times, we are advised to change our ‘baby’ to where it would not even be recognizable to us anymore.

What it comes down to, though, is a few basic truths: in the end it is the writer's baby and therefore the writer has the final say as to what is or is not changed. It is so easy, especially at first, to change our story again, and again, and again, in accordance to others opinions, until our final project is no longer OURS. Until our characters no longer speak to us because we have left them behind, deserted them, and changed them into something that is no longer true.

We cannot do this. Advice and critiques are necessary for growth. Absolutely. But ultimately, the final decision has to be the writers, and until we feel that truth to the bottom of our soul, we cannot succeed to our fullest potential as a writer. We would be like Jo on Little Women whose final story no longer was hers.

Discomfort is necessary for growth, but it is vital for us to always be true to ourselves, our story, and especially our characters. At least that is what I have come to learn.


  1. You can almost read the difference between a labor of love and a book written to please others. It's a fine line. Either is great. I have no objections to changes because I'm never quite sure what the baby will look like anyway, ha.

  2. Thanks for these enlightening thoughts, Shawnette. You have given me a great deal to think about.

  3. Thanks for this blog Shawnette. I just returned from LDStorymakers where I was praised for my writing and also ripped apart. Hmmmm . . . it boils down to the power of discernment, and going with my inspiration.

  4. Hmmmm. I've heard this somewhere before? Haven't I? LOL
    Well put. I love it, and I agree totally.
    Nothing like being a writer!
    Thanks for sharing your talent!


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