Dec 8, 2009

How Brutal Can You Be?

by Terri Wagner

Lately, I've noticed several people pleading for brutality when it comes to critiquing. No offense to anyone, but have you determined beforehand just how brutal you want someone to be? One of the destroying facets of my local writers' group in Baldwin County is that people weren't specific on their concept of brutality.

For example, I-don't-like-it doesn't really help and adds to a sense of despair. If you say, well this part seemed a bit confusing to me, and I didn't quite grasp your meaning at this paragraph, you're being brutal but helpful.

Another example is when someone says well I don't like poetry (fill in the blank) so I just won't bother with it. That hurts, because poetry is not just for fellow poets. I couldn't write a poem if I tried, but I love the classics like Sir Alexander Pope, Alfred Lord Tennyson and my personal American favorite Robert Frost, not to mention Edgar Allen Poe. So even though I can't write poetry, I can certainly give a few helpful pieces of advice.

Now let's all hmmm a chorus from "Turn it Around" from "My Turn on Earth." As a critiquier, don't be hurt if your advice isn't taken. Especially when you know you're not an expert. When I was in this writers' club. I gave advice to a poet who got purple in the face and stuttered something about wanting rhyme and rhythm advice. Fair enough. Not my skill level. Another one was a fantasy writer, I edited her entire 3-book series. It was terrific. I only helped with odd places, odd phrases and odd small plot lines. We worked well together. She was grateful. So was I. I got an advance copy so to speak.

When you want a critique, tell me what you want. It helps. And I promise not to be offended if you don't take my advice. After all, I'm not the writer here.


  1. Great post Terri! Good reminders, all. Looking at it from different directions is very helpful! thanks!

  2. I always have nightmares after giving my ms to my editor. I worry it will get ripped apart.

  3. Giid advuce Terri. We need to state what type of critique we want. I always ask, do you want a hard critique about content, emotions, characters, etc. Then I warn them that I don't think we do each other any favors if we aren't totally honest. I critique that isn't honest doesn't do me any good. I don't want anyone to butter me up. No help there. An editor will tell it like it is, so that is the kind of critique I want. Rather get it from my critique buddies than get rejected by a publisher.


Thank you for visiting. Feel free to comment on our blogger's posts.*

*We do not allow commercial links, however. If that's not clear, we mean "don't spam us with a link to your totally unrelated-to-writing site." We delete those comments.