I finished my third round of edits on my second romance but I had a niggling feeling. There was something not quite right. I want a surprise and then a big surprise and I feared surprise number two was too obvious. So I asked a writing friend if she might give it a read. In a day she was done and back to me with some nice comments, but then the next day she said she hates critiquing as it gives her too much stress since she knows how bad comments about her own writing affect her so she doesn't want to do the same to others. I felt bad I'd put her through so much agony. At the same time I did recognise her comments for what they were, a slightly too large pile of sugar.
I know two things: 1) No writer is perfect. 2) No writer likes criticism. Both of these do make critiquing other writers' work difficult, but what are we to do? We can't see our own work clearly. We must ask for some one's eyes and, at least for me, I find the best eyes are writers' eyes.
This is my take on critiquing: if someone asks me, I do my best. I take my time and point out everything. I do this because I feel I agreed to give it a look. I shouldn't do that unless I care about that writer and their writing. If I care about the writing, I want it to be the best that it can be. I'm definitely not the know all for what good writing is, I only know what I think works. I always qualify my comments at the beginning by saying it is my opinion, take it or leave it. I know reading criticism is difficult, but we must accept it as part of our job description as writers. If I send a critique that says something like- "Oh that was a nice story"- beware, it means I don't care about your writing enough to give you a passage to improve it.
I should say though, I would never take book reviews and comments at Amazon as criticism that would direct my writing. Those are something different. I'm talking about proper criticism from another writer or someone with interest in my writing's success.
I understand my writing friend's angst and I've made a promise not to ask her to critique my work again, but it has got me wondering- is it okay to just write the best piece of writing that you can and send it off to the publisher without fresh eyes to see it?
I know all writing advice says no, but I'm currently down to zero people who I trust enough to give me honest advice. I had a terrible experience with an online writing group and will never do that again, and where I live there is no one I can work with in person. Also I write across so many genres few want to follow me there.
And what about critiquing? Must all writers do it? Some people believe it is mandatory for a writer to critique others so they can understand their own writing better. What do you think? I'd be interested to know.