Cara Lopez Lee’s Thoughtful Rules for Compassionate Critiques

This post by Cara Lopez Lee originally appeared as a guest post on Rebecca Lacko’s The Written Word site.

I have a small, trusted circle of critique partners. I know I’m lucky, they’re hard to come by. I met two at Writers’ Studio at UCLA, a couple of years ago, and I count them dear friends. Two others, I met when I began volunteering for Field’s End, a non-profit literary event group. In all cases, I found my partners by magic, or universal synchronicity, or dumb luck–I really don’t what alchemy transforms strangers to trusted allies. All I can I say is it is extremely difficult to both find and BE a good critique partner. That’s why I’m sharing ideas from author and HGTV-writer Cara Lopez Lee’s excellent post, Feedback with Compassionate Detachment.

Here are excerpts:

I’ve discovered that providing feedback with the goal of serving both writer and story can be fast and easy, if you know how…

Creative writing is always deeply personal, fiction or non, and I’ve learned that’s why it’s important for feedback to be both compassionate and detached. I’ve since developed a reputation among coaching clients, writing colleagues, and students for giving feedback that encourages and motivates. Here are a few tips that have helped me:

1. Take responsibility for your opinion by emphasizing “I” statements over “you” statements.
This helps writers take feedback as opinion, rather than personal blame or praise, encouraging them to decide whether their writing needs to change or just needs another audience. For example:

  • I’d like to know more about this character’s relationship with his father.
  • I’m confused here. Is it possible to clarify?
  • I find myself wondering how this character felt when she saw the body
    (Note: If you only adopt one technique, let this be it. You will win friends and influence writers! -RL)

 

Read the full post, which includes six additional specific critique tips, on The Written Word.

 

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