Give Critiques Time

by | Aug 2, 2012 | Writing Advice | 13 comments

Becky Levine offers some tried-and-true advice on critiques: give them time.

She writes:

Here’s the rule: Don’t always assume your initial reaction to a critique comment is going to be your final reaction. Or even just your second and third. So, so often, feedback from one of your critique partners makes you shake your head vehemently (to yourself, of course!) and scream a silent, internal, “No!” They suggest a character or plot change, a major shift in voice, and all you can think is how wrong they are. How absolutely crazy wrong.


Don’t lock the door on that belief. Don’t drop it into a pile of wet concrete and let everything harden around it. Because, odds are, you’re going to get to a point in revision where you want to take it out again and look at it. Closely.

Read the whole post here (via Jennifer Hubbard)

Art: “Vanitas” by Adam Bernaert


  1. Mr. D

    Timely advice for me, since my debut novel, Killer of Killers comes out this month. As for the number of times I've revised it? I've lost count.

  2. Amy R Rivera

    I have to agree @ Mr. D. Everytime I read through my owm work there are a millions things I want to change. Most are inconsequential to character and plot, though.
    But I love critiques. It gives me a look at my strengths and weaknesses. The latter outweighs the former by far. I'm new to writing and find most reviews of my work to be quite helpful, even if the manner in which it is given stings.

  3. Mirka Breen

    *Always* sit on well intentioned feedback.

    {Not the snarky-see-how-smartly-I-trash sort we see on some review sites, that's not feedback.}

    Becky Levine understands critique-groups very well.

  4. Kristin Laughtin

    Sometimes it doesn't even take that much time. A good night's sleep can do wonders for your perspective and make you more accepting of the idea of change.

  5. Vegas Linda Lou

    Another reason not to drop a critique comment "into a pile of wet concrete and let everything harden around it" is that sometimes these comments are made off the cuff and may not have been super thought out.

    How often have you critiqued another writer's work, looked back at your comments and then erased them? "Oh, now I see it. Yeah, that does work after all."

    I always joke, "The best feedback is the feedback I agree with!" But I think there is some truth in that.

  6. Anonymous

    I'm on the fence with this. And that's because I've never had a crit partner or beta reader. I don't believe in them. I know some who swear by them. I'm just not wired that way. It's my world and I work alone.

    Besides, publishers and editors will make changes as they see fit. And that's when I really care about someone else's opinion.

    There is this new thing going around with some self-published authors now, where they launch an e-book and then wait for reviews and suggestions from readers. As the reviews and suggestions come in, these authors take their books down and make changes according to how readers feel. It's basically readers now being beta readers.

    I believe we should own our work. Minor suggestions can't hurt. But this attitude that we need to be open to all suggestions makes no sense to me. And I can't even imagine how frustrating it would be to have to take someone else's advice for changes. Unless of course that someone was a highly successful published author, or a publishing professional with years of experience. It might be different then.

  7. Mira

    Good advice! My first reaction is often to feel protective or misunderstood. It can take some time to soften and look at the feedback with some perspective.

  8. John Stanton

    I have been very fortunate to be a member of an amazing critique group with writers of all genres and all experience levels. Part of what makes it work so well is that having such a diverse group provides a variety of opinions. Sometimes the feedback is divided down the middle and the author is left to decide what direction they need to go with a particular piece.
    Also, there is a level of trust and honesty that has to be there in a critique. At our group, the saying is, "If the feedback is going to be bad, you want to hear it here from this group in this room before you hear it from the world on the internet."

  9. Tracy

    I have mixed feelings about critiques. I find that in the “learning” stages of writing, they are valuable and help to shape your style to be friendlier to the mass market. Once you get to write your own, real work, critiques can wear you down and stifle brilliance and innovation. Out of 30 critiques, you will get 30 different takes on your “art”. Following all of the advice is impossible, as you will wind up emulating your critiquer’s line of thought and reasoning.

    I would suggest people stick to critiques for short stories, early in their career. When it comes time to write a novel, trust your gut.

  10. CL Frey

    Was it Neil Gaiman who said this? "When people tell you something is wrong or doesn't work for them. they are almost always right. When they tell you exactly what they think is wrong and how to fix it, they are almost always wrong."


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


Hi, I’m Nathan. I’m the author of How to Write a Novel and the Jacob Wonderbar series, which was published by Penguin. I used to be a literary agent at Curtis Brown Ltd. and I’m dedicated to helping authors chase their dreams. Let me help you with your book!

My blog has everything you need to know to write, edit, and publish a book. Can’t find what you need or want personalized help? Reach out.


I’m available for consultations, edits, query critiques, brainstorming, and more.



Need help with your query? Want to talk books? Check out the Nathan Bransford Forums!