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Dear Critique Partner/Build it first/

Dear Critique Partner:

In regards to recent criticism of your work, remember this:
when we give a piece of our story to someone to read - we expect them to see the whole. It's like building a house and giving someone a single piece of lumber. “Here, see the house I'm building.” SOME CAN SEE IT AND SOME CAN’T.

This step is as necessary to me as breathing. I need to give you single boards as I create them. AND I expect you to be a visionary and say, “Why yes. I see.” (EVEN if you don't!) I need you to see how special the piece of lumber is that I'm using and to see that eventually I'll add more pieces to make the whole.

Choose people to read your work who like the kind of stories you write. Then, they'll appreciate the pieces. There are as many kinds of stories as there are houses to live in. If you give a brick ranch to someone who only appreciates a high rise he'll have a hard time fitting himself into what you are offering.

Don’t rebuild your story until it's built. This is where I fall short. I try to restructure in the middle of structuring. I’M TRYING TO CHANGE THE WAY I WORK.

DO talk to other "builders" and let them see your structure and let them make comments but keep in mind what each particular builder builds and pick and choose what he offers making sure that what you take is helpful to your story.

I have people who can't read my work until it's finished because they can't see at all what I'm intending - although they may like the finished piece.
Others can be with me from start to finish. They are the visionaries. They like single paragraphs of my work.

DON’T take every piece of advice you get and nail it onto your structure - otherwise just as in house building you will have boards nailed every which way and end up with a structure that would not pass inspection.

Take heart, friend. You're doing wonderful work. You've done wonderful work in the past. Take what you can from each reader - you're the builder and you have to decide what you can use and what you can't - and build that sucker.

Blessings, Barb
PS I'm great at giving advice. Not so good at taking it.


  1. That's great advice, Barb! I have that problem--I'm always rebuilding in the middle.


  2. Good advice, Barbara. I love being able to get my work critiqued. Other people can see things that I cannot, because I am so close to my work. But it is always good to have someone familiar with the genre you are writing in. Writing for children is different than writing for adults, especially if you write picture books.

  3. I love this analagy. It makes me wonder if I am doing what I should be as a critique partner.

  4. It helps to find out what each person wants. Often I just want to know if it's making sense to anyone else. The tough editing comes after that first draft. At the first draft stage I'll just want someone to read to see if it's interesting.
    We all go at it differently. And what works for one won't work for another.
    I guess we do it by the seat of the pants!
    Keep writing.

  5. Very wise and thoughtful advice. And it's always easier to give than receive, but sometimes in the giving, the wisdom sinks in.

  6. I rewrite TOO much. And the problem with that, for me, is that the characters have told me their story and here I am rewriting it.

    This is good advice you are giving and you are a very encouraging reader.

  7. This is great advice. I ran into a few snags with a writing group some years ago. They all wrote different kinds of things so for some of them, it was hard to relate to my writing.

  8. How lovely. Every critique partnership is different, but this is great advice for all.

  9. Love your post--excellent advice! I, too, rewrite and rewrite. That's why I am not making much progress with EITHER of my books. I try to go only forward, but it's just too tempting to "polish."

  10. I agree with your comparison of writing to haphazard boards.

    I don't use every single piece of writing advice. I use a lot of it, but I know every critique may not fit my style or vision.

  11. Ahh, I am so much better at giving advice and seeing outside in than taking advice and seeing inside out!


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