Let’s talk about critiques.
Critiques are a necessary evil in the writing business. As much as some of us would like to believe it, writing cannot be done in a bubble. Authors are too close to their own work to be able to catch the little–or sometimes big–issues in their story, whether it be grammar, structure, plot holes, or even just plain inconsistencies. Critiques bring fresh eyes to a manuscript and can help a writer see things about their story they may not have caught otherwise.
If the critique is done right.
The most important piece of advice I can give you is to find critique partners you trust. Friends and family are not the best choice, obviously, because they will (with the best-intentioned hearts) likely tell you only the things you want to hear. Branch out. Join a writing group. Apply to mentor programs like Pitch Wars or Author Mentor Match. There are dozens of critique partner groups on Twitter and Facebook. Be a creepy stalker and find out if the person you’re trusting with your words actually knows their stuff. More than that, make sure the person you’re trusting with your words actually knows you.
A good critique partner is one who understands and appreciates the story you are trying to tell, who is looking for ways to help you, who gives concrete ways to improve. A good critique partner will take their time with your story, ask questions, and showcase exactly what’s working and what’s not. They will respect your style and not try to force their own on you. While some of their suggestions might seem initially painful, they will come from an honest place of wanting to help you succeed.
A good critique partner will not be cruel. He or she will not point out mistakes without tips on how to fix them. They will not belittle your story or downplay your ability to improve it. They will not be exasperated if you choose not to change every single they point out. They will never ever tell you that you are wrong when it comes to making decisions on your story.
Because that’s what it comes down to. Your story is your story. By all means, share with trusted critique partners. Listen to what they have to say. Consider their suggestions. Implement the ones the ones that make sense. But never forget that this is your story, and you make the final decision on how it’s told.
Everyone is a critic. But you don’t have to listen to every single one of them.