Sunday, October 3, 2010

The Critiquee’s Charter

No matter how many times it happens, I’m always surprised when someone gets upset by feedback from his/her fellow writers. I imagine we’ve all had (or seen) our share of unpleasantness resulting from both verbal and written critiques we’ve given.

It got me thinking. Maybe we ought to have a universal charter that people should read before submitting their work for feedback.

It would go something like this:
The Critiquee’s Charter 

1.      As the person submitting my work for critique, I understand that people have taken time away from doing other things to provide me with feedback, something which will undoubtedly help me more than it will them. Though I may feel hurt by their comments, and may not agree with their observations, or decide not to implement the changes they recommend, I will keep that to myself.   I will remember that I am grateful, and take the time to thank them for their input.


2.      I recognize that not everyone has the same critique style. Therefore, unless we’ve agreed on a specific method beforehand, I will accept feedback in whatever form the critiquer cares to provide it.


3.      I want people’s honest opinions. If they give them in a way that upsets me, I will recognize that one person’s ‘rude git’ is another person’s ‘straight-talker’, and re-read item #1 until I feel better.


4.      If all I want is applause and a pat on the back for a job well done, I will not waste my critiquers’ time asking for feedback. If I do, I understand that it serves me bloomin’ well right if I don’t get the glowing praise I expected.


5.      If I think the critiquer just didn’t ‘get it’, I will re-read #1 until the urge to say so has passed.


6.      If I think the critiquer doesn’t know what he/she is talking about, I will re-read #1 until the urge to say so has passed.


7.      If I want to disagree with a critique, I will re-read #1 until the urge to do so has passed.


8.      If several people make similar observations, I will at least consider the possibility that, despite my undoubted genius, I may have missed something important.


9.      If someone gives me a harsh critique, I promise to remember that I am (in years at least) a grown-up, and will resist any temptation to ‘repay’ them when I review their work.


10. I understand that some people actually set out to critique in a spiteful, hurtful, manner. They like to show off at the expense of others, and have little or no interest in helping others improve their work. On those rare occasions when I come across these people, I will remind myself that idiots like this are the exception rather than the rule. I will learn to recognize and ignore them, and remember that (as a certain old gran used to say), ‘It’s better to be upset by people like that, than to be people like that.’


11. At all times, I will try to remember that critiques are just opinions which, like spouses and children, can be embraced or ignored however one sees fit. 


12. ________________________________________________

I left #12 blank. What would you put in there?
Has someone you critiqued ever got upset at you?


Born in England, Jon Gibbs, now lives in New Jersey, where he’s a member of several writers' groups, including SCBWI and The Garden State Horror Writers. He is the founder of The New Jersey Authors’ Network and

Jon's debut novel,
Fur-Face (a Middle Grade fantasy about unusual friendships, unlikely alliances, and wanting to fit in), was published in eBook form by Echelon Press in 2010 (click here to see the trailer).

His presentation/workshop, The Fine Art of Self Promotion is based on entries from his popular online journal, An Englishman in New Jersey.

Jon can usually be found hunched over the computer in his basement office. One day he hopes to figure out how to switch it on.


  1. For #12, how about this:

    If I really need to vent, I will do so in private; I will never, ever, post anything online that impugns the critiquer's intelligence, ancestry, or intentions, because I know that will make me look a lot worse than him/her.

  2. I found this very interesting. Don't know what I would put as #12, but I do like what Karen suggested.

  3. Good one, Karen :)

  4. Thanks, Susanne :)

  5. I discussed critiquing in my posts last week, too, and I think my conclusion was something both parties need to remember: "The point of a critique is not to tear apart a manuscript but to point out strengths and weaknesses, and encourage the writer in making the piece stronger."

  6. Wow, that #1 sure makes it's way through the other numbers. What a show off. ;)

  7. Hmmm, I think I'd have #12 to remember this is all subjective. Sure someone might not get your story but that's just one opinion.

  8. "The point of a critique is not to tear apart a manuscript but to point out strengths and weaknesses, and encourage the writer in making the piece stronger."

    Absolutely :)

  9. Re: #1's a show off

    Lol, it does seem to want a lot of attention :)

  10. Good point, Kim, though if we get a few people saying the same thing, I think we need to look to #8 :)

  11. I use the rule if more than a few mention a similar issue with my story, then I go back and rework that part. Same goes with rejections from agents. More than a few that use similiar comments or just a form 'no', means I need to revisit story.

  12. Yeah, I think you have to go with your gut when you can, but sometimes, we just have to trust the numbers.