When Critiques Go Wrong: Are We Talking About The Same Book?

Posted by Lisa L. on Wednesday, May 2, 2012

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So last year I was critiquing for someone and I gave her my usual disclaimer which goes a little something like this:

Please keep in mind that my suggestions are just that, suggestions. I am only one reader and also, you are the writer and ultimately you have to make choices that YOU are comfortable with. Nothing I say is gospel, it is just one reader's opinion designed to get your creative juices flowing.

She said you know you should take all the stuff you've told me and do a blog post about it. Well I won't go into all the things I told her but I am going to address the subjectivity topic. The main thing I want to talk about is when someone is critiquing your work and you get their critique back and the critique itself seems like one or all of the following:

1. Mean
2. Condescending
3. Off-the-wall
4. Not easily understood
5. Not even close to your authorial vision for your work
6. As if the person didn't actually read your book
7. As if the person is not even from this planet

In a word, discouraging.

So there you are, scratching your head and seriously considering pulling your hair out because you're wondering if this person is really that much of a jerk/idiot or if you're the idiot for writing such a shitty book.

Here's what I say to that: If you've gotten multiple critiques and all of them are like this, then it's you. But if you've gotten 4 or more critiques and this is the only one that is like that then you probably have nothing to worry about. Here's why.

Not everyone gets it.

It's like peoples' sense of humor. People have different senses of humor. Like those shows where they show people riding bikes and skateboards and getting into horrible mishaps (usually involving their crotches). Some people find those rip-roaringly funny. Me? I can't even watch. It starts to make me physically ill after awhile. I do not find those funny nor will I ever find them funny.

People are different. They have different tastes and different ideas about the world. Not everyone is going to get your book.

It's like Gillian Flynn's Sharp Objects. I loved it so much I couldn't stop gushing over it and then I saw crappy reviews on Amazon and gave it to my mom and she hated it.

Take movies for example: years ago there was this movie out called Dazed and Confused. Everyone I knew loved that movie passionately. Passionately, I say. I did not get it at all. What a snoozefest. I said to one friend, maybe you have to have done drugs to get it and he said, "No, not at all! It's a hilarious movie!" Well I never got it. I never will.

Then there is the movie Signs. I freaking love that movie. It's one of my all-time favorite movies. Ever. I'm not even the biggest Mel Gibson fan but I love that movie. I know plenty of people who hate this movie, think it's completely stupid and makes no sense. One friend told me it was one of the dumbest alien invasion movies she had ever seen. These people don't get it. See, for me the point of that movie is that in life, everything means something and nothing is wasted. All the good, all the bad and all the in-between. It all means something. Every little thing. That's what I get from that movie. It's not about aliens at all but if I have to explain that to someone then it's just pointless. They didn't get the movie and they're not going to. I actually know very few people who love this movie as much as I do. When I met my husband, I found out this is one of his favorite movies. Because he "gets" it. Just like me.

What does this have to do with critique partners? Well sometimes you come across a person who just doesn't get it. Plain and simple. They don't get your book and no amount of revisions is going to make them get it or make them happy.

Those are the critiques you simply must disregard. Because let's face it: when you're book is published and available to readers there are going to be readers who love it and readers who just don't get it. That's just the way it is. Not everything is for everyone. I can never say that enough. And you know what? That's OKAY! It's perfectly fine. You just want to find enough people who do get your book to make the whole endeavor worthwhile.

And that is why I advocate getting more than one critique. I'm not sure what the magic number is--I think somewhere between 5 and 10 is probably a pretty good gauge of whether your book is working or not.

So tell me, have you had any experience with this phenomenon? Ever critted a book that you didn't get? What is your magic number in terms of CPs?

Tags: critiques  writing 

About Me

Lisa Regan I am the author of Finding Claire Fletcher, Losing Leah Holloway, Kill For You, Hold Still, Cold-Blooded and the USA Today and Wall Street Journal bestselling Detective Josie Quinn series (Vanishing Girls, The Girl With No Name, Her Mother's Grave). You can email me directly at



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