I Love You, Tim Gunn.

YA Highway‘s RTW this week:  What kind of writing coach do you need? When you have to coach friends, what kind of coach are you?

Now, it might be because I adore Tim Gunn, but I think that I work best with “The Gentle Honesty Coach,” according to Sarah Enni’s mentor post over at YA Highway.

For me, medicine is best taken with a heavy dose of sugar.  Not literally–that’s gross.  But I always try to sandwich any criticisms between ample praise, and I appreciate when my critique partners do the same.  Positive reinforcement is not only good for self-esteem, it also helps to know what scenes or lines are really working for people.

Critique groups I’ve been involved with in the past have varied in their approach, so I have a good basis for my preferred methods.  Personally, I’ve found that when I only get negative feedback I tend to shut down.  I feel attacked and it just makes me want to quit writing and hide in a closet for the rest of my life.  Perhaps others work well under such brutal conditions, but it’s not for me.

Besides, if a critique partner can’t think of a single positive thing about your writing, maybe they aren’t your intended audience.  Maybe you’re better off working with someone who appreciates that quip your MC just said, or the emotional connection between your MC and his/her parents, even if they think your villain is two one-dimensional or that you have a massive plot hole that needs repairing.

How about you?  What type of mentor do you prefer?  Can you handle brutal honesty without flinching?

Share My Wisdom:

9 comments

  1. Colin says:

    Probably just me, but I find I can have people critique my work as brutally as they want, and I don’t take it personally. Perhaps it’s because I choose my critiquers carefully, and only pick those people I know who have my best interest at heart. That way, when they rip my baby to shreds, I know its because they see great potential and, like me, want it to be great. And I really don’t like positive comments for the sake of them. If you have nothing good to say about my work, then that tells me something about my work.

    But we’re all different, and part of choosing CPs is choosing ones that will fit with your personality and the way you like to be critiqued.

    • Crystal says:

      I definitely don’t want praise for the sake of praise either. But I think that when someone only has brutal criticism to bring to the table, it is a little unfair to the writer. It feels like veiled hostility to me, because I would argue that EVERYONE does at least something well.

  2. kate scott says:

    I definately perfer the harsher critiques. And as I think about the critques I give, I’m realizing that I am usually the harshest on the best writers. If something is really bad, I’ll point out a few of the most obvious flaws and maybe also point out the one or two things that kind of worked. On the other hand, when I read something that is good and has the potential to be great, I nit pick that thing to death. I usually try to remember to tell the write that I think they are fabulous too. But I only ask for critisism when I know I need to make my work better, and if it isn’t perfect yet, then I want/need/expect all the brutal honesty I can get.

    • Crystal says:

      “I only ask for critisism when I know I need to make my work better” I totally agree with that. It’s just easier to swallow lots of criticism when the critiquer doesn’t make you feel like you are a terrible writer, you know?

  3. Kristin Halbrook says:

    “Personally, I’ve found that when I only get negative feedback I tend to shut down. I feel attacked and it just makes me want to quit writing and hide in a closet for the rest of my life.”

    For sure! Constructive criticism, along with a dose of what *does* work, is the way to go. I hate when people hide meanness behind “constructive” criticism.

    • Crystal says:

      Exactly! That’s precisely what I think harsh critiques are–thinly veiled anger/mean-spiritedness. I definitely don’t want heaps of praise, but I also don’t want someone to be mean about it all.

  4. Beck says:

    Great post! i’m with you, if they don’t love something about your writing then they don’t ‘get’ it and if they don’t ‘get’ it at all then they aren’t really going to help.

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