To Critique Or Not To Critique

I'm having a Christmas latte this morning with Dyanne Davis, a multi-published, award-winning author of 16 novels.

Dyanne writes a monthly interview blog for Romance Slam Jam and has written dozens of articles for on-line magazines. She was one of the authors for the Premier Edition of New Love Stories Magazines.

Dyanne lives in a Chicago suburb with her husband, and she hosts a local cable television show, The Art of Writing, in which she gives writing tips to aspiring writers. She's had the chance to interview some of her favorite authors: LA. Banks, Robin Schone, Donna Hill, Melody Thomas, Ann Marcela, Cathie Linz, Jade Lee, Jenna Petersen and many more. You can catch some of the clips of her show on YouTube.

Recently, like so many authors, Dyanne has turned to Indie Publishing. She now has short stories and three full novels on Kindle, Nook and Smashwords. As if she wasn't busy enough, she also writes a vampire series under the name of F. D. Davis.

Take it away, Dyanne!

To Critique or Not To Critique
by Dyanne Davis

There are no hard and fast rules about having your work critiqued. The process is not for everyone. There are things, in my opinion, that a writer should be aware of when considering the critique process. Remember, this is my opinion and not a rule.

There was a time I had three critique partners. We helped each other figure out plot points, things that weren’t working and how not to have constant talking heads, or changing POV in midstream. On my second published book, my critique partners pointed out that the secondary characters had stolen the book. I was aware of that, but sent the book in anyway.

When my editor received it, she told me exactly what my critique partners had said. She told me in no uncertain terms that the publisher had contracted for a romance, not a relationship book about the brother and sister, and that if I wanted the secondary characters to have a story I needed to write another book. I did. Luckily she loved it.

The point: I should have listened to my critique partners. Yet, on the other hand if I had I would not have been offered the third contract. At the point I turned the book in I was unaware that I had another viable book in there.

Good & Bad Points About Critique Partners

Let’s do the bad points first. If you remember nothing else that I will ever say, remember this.

1. Most writers, no matter how well meaning, speak from their own frame of reference. They may want you to write something the way they would write it.

2. If you have a half dozen critique partners, chances are you will have a half dozen opinions.

3. Once a writer learns something, they are bound and determined that it is the only way to do it.

4. Critique groups can and have prevented writers from finishing the book because they are never satisfied with the first chapter. Someone will always want you to do something that you have already done, and another person told you to change.

Since nothing is all bad or all good, here are some of the good points of having your work critiqued.

1. Writers tend to read the missing words into their own work because the correct words are in their heads. A person who has not read your work will not do this. They will be able to catch
those little slips.

2. Critique groups can also spot plot holes.

Here's some advice. Have a reader (non relative or friend) read your work and have another writer read it. They will be looking for different things and will provide a broader perspective.

Use Input Wisely

Treat information given to you like a buffet. If it makes your stomach clench, pass on it. If it gives you an “ah ha” moment, think about it. If you have several critique partners and they all say the exact same thing…WELL then, think about the suggestions seriously.

Think of each critique as One Person’s Opinion. To illustrate this, I’ll relate a story. An author in my RWA chapter brought in several pieces of work and asked the group to critique them. Almost everyone ripped into the works, pointing out a dozen problems. All of the pages she turned in were actually published work by well-known authors!


Going into a critique relationship creates a bond of trust. The person doing the critique should be able to give an honest appraisal of the work with a minimal amount of, “I’d like to see you do thus and so.” If they want you to change your entire book because they don’t like what you wrote, then they should write their own book.

Be Prepared

Let’s not forget the most important person in the critiquing process. YOU.

Before you ask anyone to critique your work, know where you’re heading.

Be strong enough that a critical critique will not throw you off course and stop you from writing. Develop a thick skin. There is no such animal as the perfect book. And if you think yours is perfect, you probably shouldn’t bother having anyone critique your work. But, if you’re having a problem, or need a fresh pair of eyes, you just might benefit from a critique partner.

Whatever you decide to do, it doesn’t mean that you can’t change your mind. That’s what writers do. Keep writing.

Takeaway Truth

As Dyanne says, if it's not working, you can change your mind. The important thing to remember is not to let it cause you to stop writing.


  1. Hi Joan,

    This is an excellent post making some great points. I always think it's a very good idea to have your work critiqued as you'll be getting some valuable feedback before you put it out into the big bad world. I think this process is vital for writers who don't use editors because at least then they'll have some sort of feedback that they wouldn't otherwise have had.

  2. LK Watts...

    Hello! Thanks for visiting. Glad Dyanne's post "spoke" to you.

    Happy Holidays!