“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 constructive means coming to the critique with the ultimate goal of helping the writer improve.
In order for people to listen, they must feel that the person criticizing them has their best interest in mind, and being harsh doesn’t communicate your best interest.
In my earliest days writing, I received some negative criticism from a writer who decided to berate me for penning a bad phrase rather than explaining to me why the phrase didn’t work.
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.
This section is not so much about “It is important to appreciate the amount of subjectivity and pre-understanding all readers and listeners bring to the process of interpreting acts of human communication.
But unless a speaker or author can retain the right to correct someone’s interpretation by saying ‘but that’s not what I meant’ or ‘that’s not even consistent with what I meant,’ all human communication will quickly break down.”—what the author desired the audience to receive from their work.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.Because he was rude, I insulated myself to his criticism.Years later, I reviewed the work and realized his criticism was valid.Conversely, we might be willing to share our opinions with other writers while struggling with our competence. If we’re critiquing on Scribophile, we may feel that we are wasting one of the author’s coveted “spotlight” critiques.Having used Scribophile on-and-off since 2009, I’ve seen countless readers qualify their commentary on my own work (“I don’t read your genre,” “I haven’t read your previous chapters,” “I’m not good with grammar,” etc.) and I’ve seen even more cry woe on the forums about how they can’t critique because they’re not experienced enough, not educated enough, or not talented enough.As you interact with works on Scribophile or elsewhere, remember to always approach the task of criticism with a desire to be genuinely helpful.If your criticism is built on this foundation, your commentary will be constructive regardless of your competence and experience.Being honest and being brutal are not the same thing.Critics must learn to express hard truths without coddling and without being jerks.