Writing Critique Etiquette–What Not to Do

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Normally, Tuesday is TBR day. I’ll just say I’m reading John Barnes Directive 51 to review for another site and it’s too early for an assessment. Now, time to rant.

About 20 months ago, I began my first novel and it has been a wild ride from writing to finding a great agent to signing that coveted publishing contract. Early in the process, when I’d finished a first draft of the first book, I joined an online crit group. I’ll go ahead and plug critters.org because it’s a great group. I found three or four beta readers through that group that gave me invaluable feedback.

On any group that size, however, there are some duds. And I chose this week to crit the first chapter of a  fantasy novel WIP I thought was rough but fixable. I was diligent and did a fairly lengthy critique. Here was my response from the author:

Thanks for reading my submittion (sic) and for your critique. However, the version you read is old one and I have revised it since but could not  be bothered to re-sumbit (sic). So if you want I can send you my revised version for comparison. Also, I’m looking for someone to read the whole novel. Would you be interested?

Uh, no. I don’t think I can be bothered to re-read it. And you have gone onto a black list whose work I will never, ever look at again.


We all know the “do” list in critiquing: be polite, be respectful, understand that it’s one person’s opinion, give the writer positive feedback as well as constructive criticism.

If you’ve had critiques done of your work, or feedback from someone you’ve critiqued, share your horror stories! (No names, please.)

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About Suzanne Johnson

Author of urban fantasy, paranormal romance, and suspense. As Suzanne Johnson, she is the author of the Sentinels of New Orleans urban fantasy series (Royal Street; River Road: Elysian Fields, Pirate's Alley, Belle Chasse, Frenchmen Street (March 2018). Writing as Susannah Sandlin, she is the author of the Penton Legacy series (Redemption; Absolution; Omega; Storm Force; Allegiance; ILLUMINATION); The Collectors series (Lovely, Dark, and Deep; Deadly, Calm, and Cold); and the Wilds of the Bayou series (Wild Man's Curse; Black Diamond).

4 thoughts on “Writing Critique Etiquette–What Not to Do

  1. Critiquing takes a lot of work and it’s frustrating to know that you put so much effort into something that was basically a waste of time.

    I’ve only had one bad experience myself. I was taking a creative writing course and we had to submit pages. We had a week to read several and then talk about them in class. One woman just ripped into my story. I didn’t say anything at the time. I was offended but wondered if I was being oversensitive. After class, my friend, also in the class, mentioned how this woman was out of line. Made me feel better that I hadn’t imagined it.

  2. I’m also on Critters and love it, but have received some interesting comments. My favourite was from a fellow who, after shredding my story, told me if I were writing a romance or any other genre where I could take my style and “plug it into a paint-by-numbers plot”, I’d be a bestseller. How’s that for a backhanded compliment? Still makes me smile.

  3. LOL. I can identify, Kim. I had a critter tell me I obviously needed to read some books on writing a novel because I didn’t know what I was doing. I sold it the next week, and made sure to send him my big announcement!

    Riley, I’ve had to deal with that too. There are a couple of folks I’ve been in writing groups with who just didn’t get the whole paranormal thing and deduced that I was, therefore, not writing it correctly. All you can do is shrug and move on!

  4. So far no horror stories yet, but now that I’m actively looking for one, someone responded to my ‘ad’ through an email that was riddled with grammatical errors. Now I know some people don’t also use proper English when typing an email, but I always do. So my flag is raised and I don’t know if it will work out with this person. One of my readers loves everything I write, which is nice don’t get me wrong, but isn’t very helpful.