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The problem was not the content of his criticism, but its malicious delivery.Had he come to my work with the desire to be genuinely helpful, I would have listened to what he had to say, and I might even have gained some enlightenment during a formative time in my writing career.It will express your best interest—especially if you had a lot of hard things to say. Be genuine in your motivations, and genuine action will follow.
None of this is to say that you shouldn’t commend a piece of work if it truly is fantastic or that you should not highlight the gems within a work. If a work is so well-crafted in your eyes that nothing worse than grammatical hiccups are present, tell the writer. Sometimes people genuinely deserve a “well done.” Don’t skimp on encouragement where it can be authentically offered.
Even if a piece is messy, do your best to find a few strong points to highlight. Highlight the strong points of a piece—even if they are far outweighed by the negative points.
Critics must contend with the reality that writing is art, people have opinions about art, and those opinions are not always going to be eruptions of praise.
There is no safer environment to honestly and succinctly point out problem areas in a piece of writing than a forum designed for that very purpose.
Others decry the very sort of criticism writers’ groups and workshop sites like Scribophile foster, suggesting that the perfunctory nature of such criticism is ultimately more harmful than helpful.
Scribophile as a community thrives on the principle of serious commitment to serious writing, and the foundation of that commitment is reading and responding to others’ work.It does not equate to coddling—being so nice you’ll never say a hard thing—nor does it equate to browbeating—being so hard you’ll never say a nice thing.Being dishonest or refusing to offer valid criticism where you’re able is a disservice to the writer. Few things are more constructive than hard truths delivered by critics who genuinely want to help and who tailor their criticism with an attitude of genuine interest.“As for literary criticism in general: I have long felt that any reviewer who expresses rage and loathing for a novel or a play or a poem is preposterous.He or she is like a person who has put on full armor and attacked a hot fudge sundae or a banana split.” Few things will more quickly deflate a writer than unnecessarily harsh criticism.Being honest and being brutal are not the same thing.Critics must learn to express hard truths without coddling and without being jerks.We all assign merit to the information we experience daily. Sitting in a judgment of another writer’s work often feels distasteful, and doing so may conjure negative memories of when we were misunderstood or dismissed by others. We “like” or “dislike” a movie, a meal, a photo, a story. Some writer-readers struggle with this point, especially if they are young to writing and editing.Refusing to offer criticism where it’s needed is one of the greatest disservices you as a critic can do for other writers.Some critics may fret that their criticism might be too discouraging if fully disclosed.