Well if you already knew…

Stephen Covey once said “constructive criticism is the greatest gift one ca hope for”, and he was right. Participating in a critique group is a tricky enterprise. You want to be encouraging, but you want to give constructive criticism–that’s why we’re all here.

It is surprising, then, how frequently a writer will argue with the critique, and even more so, how frequently his argument breaks down — one way or another — to some version of “Yeah, I already knew that was a problem.”

I shouldn’t be surprised of course. This is the natural human desire to save face–even if only in our own eyes, and we ALL are guilty of it at one time or another.

Literary critique, fellow space travelers, should not be that time. You asked for my critique, I give it. I try very, very hard to be constructive (even if the POV shifts eight times in the first paragraph and you mis-spell your own main character’s name in the second) and the only response I need from you is “thanks.” It is, after all, only my opinion; you are free to disagree, or agree, or agree and ignore me anyway for reasons that satisfy only you. It’s your writing after all, and I will think no more or less of you for not writing what I would have written (in fact, I’d just as soon you didn’t!).

But please, please don’t agree with me and tell me “yeah, I knew that was a problem”, because from my end of the transaction, that translates as “yeah, I don’t mind wasting other people’s time and effort.”