I wanted to share some more thoughts on critiques, because they're just so darn central to our writing process. For the critiques that you do engage in (whichever side you're on) there are so many ways you can go astray. Here are some points to keep in mind about the right spirit to have, apart from the obvious about being a fair and balanced reviewer and an thick-skinned author:
For the Critiquer
- Bouncing off what Heather said, if you don't like the genre or style or even the author, don't volunteer to review it. It's not going to be fair, because you won't know what to look for and will either produce unhelpful remarks or unnecessarily negative ones.
- Listen to what the author is looking for. Do they want proof-reading? Do they want stylistic tips? Fact-checking? Marketability ideas? Make sure you give them what they want and don't give them a bunch of stuff they're not looking for.
For the Critiquee
- Don't respond defensively. Take the criticism, think about it, consider it, decide for yourself if you want to incorporate recommended changes or not. But don't argue with your reviewer or make your excuses. There's no point and nothing to be gained. Plus it's rude and reduces your chances at getting a good review in the future.
- Agents and editors are important. Readers are helpful, but readers who don't make a decision about the future of your work only readers. Liberate yourself from the tyrrany of assuming that a critique obligates you in any way. But if it's an agent or an editor, and you want to get published, liberate your work from the tyrrany of your own pride.