Yesterday when I posted a tongue-in-cheek version of what my critique group was like the night before, I had some interesting emails directed toward me. I am always fine with my blog readers emailing me and I have made some great friends from this blog, but I wanted to clarify something. Yesterday's post was an exaggeration. I was trying to be funny. I love my critique group and they have made my writing stronger, there's no doubt about that.
Today I'd like to talk to you about the difference between criticism and critique. These two are very different things and sometimes I think that there aren't enough discussions on what a critique really is.
I think in our world today criticism (of pretty much everything) is prevalent. To me, criticism is negative evaluation without offering solutions. I can criticize my own work pretty well. Those negative voices are only too eager to tell me everything that's wrong, not only with my manuscript, but with me as a writer. And I think that some writers/reviewers/people in general criticize others easily under the guise of giving feedback, when in truth, it is not helpful to receive only criticism.
For me, critique is evaluation that can stay objective and constructive. It can be positive as well as negative in letting the writer know what isn't working in the manuscript as well as what is working. It doesn't get personal, but it is supportive of the writer. A good critique is still encouraging for the writer.
I have some wonderful people in my life who are very willing to evaluate my manuscripts and tell me what's wrong with it, but we also laugh a lot along the way. When our critique group was over that night, one of the group said how much her abs would ache the next day from laughing so hard. And it's true. We laugh a lot when we're together. And when they're critiquing my work, or when I get an evaluation back, I sit there feeling very grateful to have these amazing people take time out of their busy lives to help me. After a critique, I usually feel completely ready to dive in again and put their suggestions to use or fix what didn't work. It's a good feeling.
So, in the choice between criticism and critique, I hope you know that for our editors on First Page Friday and for me personally as a writer, we want you to find solid critiques and helpful advice on this blog to make you feel encouraged as a writer and eager to make your work stronger. Because, for example, I think we all learn from one another on First Page Fridays and when one writer is strengthened through critique, I think everyone in the writing community can be inspired. We're all on a journey with struggles and triumphs and there are opportunities all around us to help others along the way. I know I'm sure glad for the people around me who reach out for my hand.
My mother-in-law had a saying on her fridge years ago that went something like this, "Be a contributor not a criticizer." I think that is a true statement. Critiquing contributes something to the writer---it helps them. That's the bottom line.
So, let's all be contributors. Your writer friends will thank you. And so will I. (Especially if you're critiquing my work!)