Can we just talk about critiquing for a second? I’ve been thinking about making this post for a while now and I just now getting time to write it. What made me want to write this is because I was recently revising my book, Hybrid Killers. Hybrid Killers wasn’t always Hybrid Killers. It used to be called Dystopia. The content in Dystopia is much different from the content in Hybrid Killers. The only similarities they have are the first three chapters or so. And the reason for that is because of some ‘constructive’ criticism I received a few months after completing Dystopia.
I had a printed copy of Dystopia. I had a book. It was my book. I loved everything in it. I wanted it to be amazing and it was. At this time I valued acceptance and validity from one of my friends. She was a great writer, but could never finish a project. I wanted her input on my work. I wanted her to tell me what she thought about it. So I handed her my book and asked her to critique it. Give me advice on what I should do. Help me in places that are weak. And she agreed.
So she read the first page and stopped. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all about getting criticized. I welcome it actually. But what she did, wasn’t what I asked. She took a pencil to my pages and crossed stuff out, added in words and sentences that had no right being there. She didn’t understand the reason why I wrote some things. She crossed important things off. And I know it wasn’t the way I delivered it. Some sentences didn’t make sense after she passed them.
Three chapters in I stopped her, but not for the reason you think. She said to me, “I think you should just rewrite the whole thing and take into account on what notes I made”. And I stupidly agreed. I wrote another book, Hybrid Killers, and self-published it a few months later. But there was something different with this book. I wasn’t happy with it. It wasn’t my book anymore. It became hers. I always ask people not to read it when they ask where they can buy it. I got sick of saying that. This is my first book. The one that is available for all eyes for a price. I didn’t want people losing faith in my writing. I can’t have people thinking my writing is shit.
About a month ago I took Hybrid Killers down. I opened up my Dystopia file and I opened up my Hybrid Killers file and I mashed them together. There are elements in Dystopia that I like and dislike, and there are elements in Hybrid Killers that I like and dislike. I pulled chapters. I added chapters. I wrote new paragraphs and I deleted paragraphs. I’m still polishing it, but its becoming something I love again.
The reason why I went through all this is because I didn’t receive criticism. She killed my baby and I’ve since never asked for her help again. I don’t want to be slaughtered.
The Wikipedia definition of constrictive criticism is:
Constructive criticism is the process of offering valid and well-reasoned opinions about the work of others, usually involving both positive and negative comments, in a friendly manner rather than an oppositional one. The purpose of constructive criticism is to improve the outcome.
The Wikipedia definition of destructive criticism is:
Destructive criticism Destructive criticism aims to destroy the target of criticism, by making the destructive criticism (e.g. “you should shut up and follow the program”). The aim is to show that the point of view of someone else has no validity at all, or lacks any merit.
So keep in mind if you’re ever critiquing someones work. Please make sure you’re doing the right thing and helping them become better. Don’t make the writer fearful of what someone’s input might be. A year later and I’m just now getting comfortable letting people read my work again.