Your Own Harshest Critic

The Admittedly Team
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Fifteen sets of eyes stared at me in eager anticipation. This was it, the moment I’d been dreading, and they’d been waiting for. I was about to read out loud my first draft piece of unpublished work, to a room full of established writers and English graduates.

I was terrified for my first work critique, going as far as to have a restless night’s sleep the evening before. I was certain that I, a biology graduate, would be eaten alive by my much more suitably qualified peers. I read out the final sentence and was met by resonating nothingness. Nobody spoke.

Oh God, I thought internally, being the ever pessimist that I am, It’s so bad they’re lost for words. During my reading, they were all scribbling away; I knew they must have feedback to tell me. Before I could worry any further, I realized with a flood of relief that it was just good old English courtesy and manners at play. Nobody wanted to be the first to jump in with their views.

Instead, my tutor took over proceedings. “Okay, Amy. Well, first of all, the writing was imaginative and gripping from the start.” Wait. What? Positive comments? I was so geared up for a deluge of negative views about my work, that I was caught completely off guard.

To my great relief, similar observations came from the rest of my classmates. That was the day I realized I had nothing to worry about when being critiqued. I found that the feedback was frequently praise, and the criticism was always constructive and unanimously felt among my fellow students – a sign that, by majority vote, something was off with that particular part of my prose. The feedback wasn’t negative for the sake of being negative–in fact, quite the opposite; it was valuable and helped to mold my work for the better. The critique also called attention to small grammatical inaccuracies I had missed.

Overall, my fellow students actually supported me, allowing me to build confidence in my writing abilities, and critiquing their work was equally as helpful to me as their advice. I had to have the aptitude to spot small errors, suggest changes in pace, and recognize various sentence structures that could take their storytelling from good to exceptional.

Looking back, I feel like we all fear for the worst, which is rarely what the outcome actually is. Don’t fear the word “critique” – it sounds inherently bad like they have to find fault in your work, but as I found, it is actually more of a friendly open discussion about how to help improve your story, with everyone heading towards a common end goal. You can get invaluable help in perfecting your novel from a room of writers, an aid you may never get to take full advantage of again.

Post courtesy of Amy

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