Constructive Criticism: What It Is and How to Give It

shame-799094_640

Anyone who has ever put there work out there has heard of criticism and everyone with a mouth has probably given a critique of something at some point, usually unasked for and since this is the internet (stupid) probably in the harshest of possible tones. It might surprise many to know that there’s a way to give criticism that’s actually helpful, that will help the person improve if they’re willing to listen. It’s even possible to give that criticism in such a way that they’ll want to listen to it.

When I went to college and majored in creative writing – this was an actual lesson we had to have at the beginning of the semester. Everything about it seemed pretty common sense but in order for all us tender young things to actually learn and progress rather than shrivel up on the vine, we needed to be on the same page. The same thing goes with all kinds of people who make things and have an internet presence. If you want them to keep making the stuff and improving, you’ve got to learn how to tell them that so they’ll actually hear you and not just run off into a corner crying after reading your first sentence.

It Starts With the First Sentence

The first sentence is always, always crucial. You can win or lose someone with just a handful of words so, choose carefully! When offering criticism that you want them to hear and heed it’s important to start from a positive place.

Remember the Positive

If you’re going to take the time to offer a helping hand towards improvement, you must have seen something in the work that you enjoyed. Start there. Know what you like and don’t be afraid to gush about it! Knowing what really struck a cord with you, might help them to understand that they’ve hit the right point somewhere, so they’re less likely to throw out all the things you loved as they improve their craft. There’s nothing worse than not really liking everything about someone’s work but really enjoying a few elements only to find that the next work doesn’t have any of those elements left in it.

Enhance That Image

Now that they know what you enjoyed, tell them ways to enhance that image. Talk about additional steps they could take to improve on what’s already a good thing.

Don’t Overemphasis the Bad

Eventually you’ll run out of the good bits to talk about and you’re going to want to talk about the bad things you want them to lance out like a infected boil. Hold up there buttercup. How much good stuff did you mention? A nice rule of thumb is to aim for no more than an equal number of bad things so they don’t get overwhelmed. Make sure you know what really bothered you so you don’t get bogged down with smaller pet peeves, prioritize.

Be Polite

Should go without saying but this is the internet (stupid) so it’s worth pointing out specifically: be polite, especially when you’re talking about someone’s faults. Remember that even though you’re talking about someone’s work, most creatives view their work as externalized parts of themselves, so everything negative you say about their work can feel like a personal attack.

You Want to Help

This is the most important part, even when you’re talking about the stuff you absolutely hated – you want to help. Don’t forget to offer possible solutions as you’re pointing out the bad bits, without this no amount of careful wording will make your criticism constructive. You need to not only know what you hated but why, how to improve it and most importantly how to tell them how they can do better.

That’s just about everything. As you can see it’s not an easy task but if you care enough about the thing the thing to try I promise you they’ll appreciate the effort. Don’t forget that while being helpful takes some actual work on your part, you can always just drop a positive word or two in the review section to brighten any creative’s day, seriously we live for that stuff. Now go forth and help improve the quotient of awesome in the world!

Advertisements

So… What’s Next?

Sunset Pair Romance Love Bank Nature Lovers LakeAm I really back? Yes I’m really back – at least until August when I gotta go back to the grind.

What kind of goodies can you expect, now that I’m really really back? Well first up – I’m about as far along with “Tasting Ash” as I was before I went poof. There just wasn’t really enough time and room for me to concentrate on the rewrite as it needs to be done properly, though I can assure you it’s never been far from my mind and that despite my lack of releases or blog posts – I have been writing.

My gran is 92, you see, and in the last year she gave us all a horrible shock, such a shock I insisted on dropping everything and flying home to see her briefly. While I was there I asked her what she would like me to write (my gran is great but she’s got no head for fantasy or horror so hasn’t read anything of mine since grade school when it was still mostly fairy princesses and love stories) and she said, “I’d love it if you’d write me a romance.”

Cue me, completely out of my element trying to fulfill my gran’s request. Some of you might remember that I’m not very good at romances. Lots and lots of practice is therefore required before I’ll finally have something I can show to my gran. Basically I’m saying I’ve got a folder full of horrific little Belladonna shorts that I’ve been adding to in my rare healthy and unoccupied moments. A few of them I actually think I might not die from embarrassment releasing out to the world, a very small few but a few nonetheless.

One of my other author friends who actually has a handle on this romance thing suggested an anthology and as luck would have it I had a nub of a story that seemed to fit the bill! So this summer there will be a new Belladonna short released upon the world in “When Worlds Collide: A Vampire Alien Romance Anthology!”

Those of you who are fans of my twisted little brand of romance are in for a right treat!

“There’s No Such Thing As Magic”


Hamartia by Junedays on DeviantArt

Here I am, deep into book three of the Eldritch Elysium series, “Tasting Ash,” and I’m already coming up against the great thorny caltrop I laid down to wreck myself in “Toxic Ash.” I knew damn well that in a story dotted with shape shifting boyfriends and their poisonously beautiful sister and an old lover suffering under a debilitating curse that sooner or later I’d want to just toss in a little of the old razzle dazzle and let it explain away all my ills.

So I made sure to state it clearly once and for all so i couldn’t go back and add in a big ol sorting hat later on. Now that Ash is stuck deep behind enemy lines and is learning far more than she ever wanted to know about Caine, Caliban, Jeb, Klyde and Ophelia’s very messed up heritage I really really wish I could just wave a magic wand over the whole thing and call it done rather than wading through science journals and websites looking up the minutia of science that explains only half of anything and only half of the Corporation for that matter.

Because while there might be no such thing as magic, there certainly is something going on that’s beyond the realm of science. It’s in the gap between the first Helen’s brain surgery and impregnation, it’s in the extra bit of DNA that makes Ophelia kin to Blanche and it’s running lose and unfettered in the halls of the Corporation where scientists work in their pristine labs to distill something monstrous useful mundanity.

I feel a little like the parent, diligently informing their child that there’s no monster in their closet or under the bed–while checking the bars over the windows and doors as well as the handgun under their pillow. A monster by any other name is still gonna kill your ass.

Now go to bed.

Short, Sweet and Sassy

While I was stuck in bed away from my working computer and basically miserable, I couldn’t help but think of writing. Specifically synopsis and what really makes a good one. One that’s interesting, draws you right in but though it doesn’t lie and clearly mentions key point’s also doesn’t give anything away. Brief without feeling like an ad, in short: nothing if not distilled awesome.

In my head if it’s got to be short, sweet and sassy it’s got to be this brief description of the classic film, The Wizard of Oz.

Written Rick Polito for a 1998 TV Guide, this little gem has made the rounds of the internet meme scene for years and it’s entirely true and ridiculously intriguing for a modern audience (on the off chance that there’s someone alive who hasn’t seen the Wizard of Oz) all within the scope of one sentence.

In my fevered state of course I had to try my hand at a few similar snippets for one of my books as well.

Ash of Ambitions

  • Innocent woman gets caught up in the sinister machinations of a murderous family’s plots.
  • Sweet loner has unwanted guests suddenly heaped upon her. Body count rises.

Well that was fun. Got any sassy little blurbs of your own to share? Go ahead and post ’em in the comments.

Tumblr

Big news flash and sounding of sirens.

I have a new Tumblr account.

That’s it.

I honestly have no idea what I’m going to do with it or if it really has anything to do with my writing and should therefore be brought up here. Probably not. Though I did notice a lot of villain love going on on Tumblr, which is why I made the account (all of my characters could be called villains, even the nice ones, no really) but I’m not sure what to do with it beyond that except enjoy basking in the love of really questionable men and women with my people.

If you’ve got a villain related Tumblr feel free to post in the comments! I’m desperately looking for more villainy to follow. Especially female villains. So far my Tumblr is almost entirely Hannibal, not that the well mannered cannibal isn’t an awesome villain – I just live for variety.

Monday Bon Mots: Toxic Ash

I’ve decided to shake my posting schedule up a bit and was thinking of posting story excerpts on Mondays.These lovely little writing samples can range from a sentence to a page and will be from novels and shorts, sometimes with pictures but probably far more often without. Just a little taste for the readers of my blog who are, well, readers and not interested in all the blech and blargle of being an novelist. Luckily for me, this idea also happened to coincide with my birthday and a lovely bit of fan art from one of my readers!

So I’ll be kicking the Monday Bon Mots off with an extra special bang.

DreamingAsh

As she slipped into sleep that last image, something she had not seen but somehow had, seemed to color her dreams. If ‘dream’ was even the word for the terrible lucid journey she seemed thrown into.

Only a moment seemed to pass from the memory of the shadow and then Ash was rising from her bed, wearing not the usual comfy shirt but some far more lengthy nightgown. Slipping forth on bare feet, Ash rushed from her rooms – not into the half familiar hallway but into another room entirely. Onward her feet carried her, slipping not from room to hallway but from room to room, some of them tucked into the others in odd ways only reachable through doorways hidden in plain view; this one was behind a large oil painting, to get to that one Ash had to open a giant grandfather clock and dodge the pendulum, and the next was simply a wall with a hidden catch that swung open on a pivot and revealed not one other room but two…

Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award

It’s almost that time of year again. Somewhere between when I’ve finished writing my latest novel and before I stop fretting over it like a fussy hen and start writing my next novel. Into this no-mans land falls several events, MLK day, my birthday, Valentine’s Day, Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award.

In something like 26 days, all kinds of authors are going to be scrambling for a chance on a very small list that promises to get only smaller as each wrung of the competition goes on. This year I’m contemplating throwing my hat into the ring, if for no better reason than ‘why not.’

Though I’d really like to hear what other Indies think of the contest. Was it worth the effort? Would you do it again? How big was the ulcer you grew from worrying and did it necessitate surgery? You know, that kind of thing.

So leave a note in the comments and tell me your thoughts! Or if you’re a reader and you just want me to tell you when my next book is going to hit Amazon, consider signing up for email alerts.