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Terrible Tips Tuesday: Thanks Giving

October 12, 2010

Recently I was bored and going through my “Tit-for-Tat” list on Critique Circle to see who I owed a critique to.  I noticed one person had a story in the queue for the week so I decided to do a critique for her.

This was the response I got back (story title and names changed to protect the guilty):

Thank you for critiquing my story, “My Aunt Flo”. You’ve pointed out a good number of things that I’ve changed already. The rest will stay the same. I only have a hundred or so more words to play with, and as this is a newspaper article, I won’t be adding any dialogue to it.

Using Aunt Flo is only an analogy and it was used to keep the piece light. I feel if I put too much more of her in, people will miss the point of the article which is to teach about PMS. I never heard of the disease before I got it and I don’t know anyone else how has either. I want to the word to get out on it so others become educated as well.

Thanks for your critique though. Much appreciated. You did point out some things I can change. Good luck with your own work. Happy writing!

See, here’s one of my bugaboos after I do a critique.  Can’t you just say “Thank you” and that’s all?  The first line is actually the standard line generated by Critique Circle.  And just sending that is fine.

Instead, this person couldn’t resist the temptation to mouth off.  Most of it seems innocuous, but it isn’t.  For example this line:

You’ve pointed out a good number of things that I’ve changed already.

That’s basically saying, “You just wasted your time critiquing what’s already fixed.”  Gee, thanks.  I feel so much better.

But then even worse is that next line:

The rest will stay the same.

That’s another way of saying, “I think my story is perfect as is.”  So if it’s perfect then why did you bother submitting it?  Again, you’re saying that I’ve just wasted my time.  And since you put these at the front of your little commentary, you’ve pretty well set an antagonistic tone early, so that I’m not even going to bother reading all of your reasons for why you’re going to disregard everything I just spent 10-20 minutes writing.

Though really you have to like the line near the end:

You did point out some things I can change.

Really?  But you just said at the beginning that the rest would stay as is!

This of course isn’t the first time this has happened.  Here’s something the authors have probably never thought of:  I.  Don’t.  CARE!!!  This isn’t composition class where we’re holding a debate on the merits of a submitted piece.  I have my say, I get my point, I cross you off the Tit-for-Tat list and I move on.  That’s it.  Whatever you change or do with the piece after that is up to you.  And no, I don’t really give a shit what happens with it.  Especially on a site like that with thousands of members, I don’t know you personally.  I’ll probably never meet your personally and if I didn’t I wouldn’t know it because I don’t even know your real name!

But the thing is, as writers we just can’t resist making these kind of comments.  I do it as much as anyone.  Actually I recently pissed off someone who critiqued the “Meet Cute” story I posted here because she posted some lengthy critique about the main character Tom wanting to be the dog and licking the girl’s face and something about women’s shoes.  In response I said, “Thanks, but Tom doesn’t want to be the dog.”  So she got pissed because she put all this hard work into her crit and I said Thanks, but…

In reality I wanted to say much more than that.  I wanted to say, “Why the fuck are you talking about women’s shoes?  My main characters is a man.  A straight man.  He wouldn’t know expensive brand shoes from KMart ones.  WTF?”  But even I’m not a big enough asshole to say all that unless maybe I have a few drinks in me and then all bets would be off.

What I should have said was just “Thank you.”  That’s all you need to say.  Thank you for the critique.  Not “Thanks, but…” followed by a lengthy diatribe of why your story is perfect and this person was a sucker who wasted his/her time to critique it.

The problem though is that writers are selfish assholes.  Seriously, every writer thinks he/she is the center of the universe.  So they inevitably think that they deserve to have people spend time to read/critique their stories because they’re so important and awesome.  Except of course what none of us really want is an actual critique.  What we want is the fawning praise reserved for book jackets.  This is because every writer is self-centered AND horribly insecure.  They don’t want you to say how to fix the story because they think the story is already perfect.

Of course there are some writers who probably can actually take criticism with grace.  Those are the lucky few.  The rest of us just need to learn to choke our inner demon that wants to scream how you didn’t GET the story and I’m not going to change anything and instead just say, “Thank you.”

And thank you Phantom Reader or Google robot viewing this.

Thursday Reading FUNdamentals:  SEX!  Do I need to say more?  No.


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  1. I try, emphasis on TRY, not to do this when I get a critique that I think is totally off the mark. I very rarely add anything to the standard “Thanks for the critique”. I find this is better for everyone in the long run ; )

    PS, I read the crit about the women’s shoes you are referring to. It was a bit odd.

  2. It is such a temptation to add that “but…” at the end, but it is better in the end for everyone to hold your tongue.

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