Monday, May 11, 2015

The Scientific Classifications of a Critiquer: Third and Final Part

By Aaron Michael Ritchey

Thanks you, Pikes Peak Writers, for letting me dominate my little corner of the PPW blog to go into exquisite detail about the nine classifications of critiquer, who is the idiot reading your work and offering a bunch of bad advice. Okay, that came out bitter.

Yes, I classified the various types of critiquers, who are the helpful eyes striving to make your book better. While I’m being critiqued, I have to keep a few things in mind:

· My perception might be skewed when someone is skewering my work. I might think someone is a Harry Hater, when in truth, they are just being honest and I’m taking it the wrong way.

· Even in the vilest critique full of hate and abusive language, look for the gems. Getting a critique is like someone coming to you and telling you they spread diamonds in a field of horse manure. You have to go through the crap to get to the jewels.

· If I get a critique and it’s mostly about word choice and sentence structure, I should walk away walking tall. Generally, people attack the writing when the big stuff works. And I used to get so devastated when people corrected my comma use. True story. Now I listen for those blissful words, “I only have little stuff.” Thank goodness. I’ll take a Grammar Nazi over a Harry Hater any day of the week.

· Listen for the issues everyone agrees on. If everyone thinks your sentences are bloated, thin it out, brother. If everyone gets bored with a chapter, cut it, my sister. I generally go with the common opinion. If opinions are split, I go with my gut.

· Beware of too many people in a critique group. If I get more than five or six critiques, I go cross-eyed trying to figure them all out. Actually, depending on the species of critiquers, three or four is plenty for me.

· In the end, I edit using the committee in my head, and I have to trust that committee. Don’t let anyone destroy the deep voice of genius inside you. A lot of times, I try to make a change suggested by the Genius Wunderkind in my group, and I end up changing it back. Because the committee rejected the change. Don’t blame me, blame the voices in my head.

Now, I know you’re all dying to know what kind of critiquer I am. The truth?

Well, I can tell you the ones I’m definitely not. I’m not a Harry Hater and I’m not a Genius Wunderkind. Not at all.

I might be a bit of a Fashionista, but I only know enough to be dangerous. So ignore me when I start talking bad about prologues.

In my heart of hearts, I’m a Plain Jane Reader. I love books and stories, and a lot of times, I don’t have much to say. But then again, I’m also an Idea Genie, and I’m not just any kind of Idea Genie. I’m the very worst kind. I offer suggestions on major plot points, major character attributes, and the big stuff. I can overlook all the little Nazi grammar stuff, and then say, “You know, you really need an explosion in chapter eight because more stuff has to happen.”

But I don’t stop there. I then write volumes!

“Or maybe not an explosion. Maybe aliens. Yeah, aliens, with shark guns attack in chapter eight, and Cynthia has this fear of sharks, so you’ll have to work that in, but then she’ll have to overcome her fear of sharks in Act III to save the day, but then a shark eats her and kills her and it’s all so tragic.”

And the poor guy I’m critiquing sits there, blinking. Shark guns? What?

I can get a little excitable. Sometimes I’m on the nose with my suggestions, and other times I am way out in left field.

In the end, after all the critiquers have gone back to their lairs to sharpen their claws (still bitter), I have to listen to the suggestions that strike home, that I can’t ignore, that plague me. If I can ignore a critique or a critiquer, I will. But if I can’t, that’s the good stuff.

Best of all are the critiques that make me excited to edit. Thank God, for the most part, I’m in a critique groups that lights the fire of my imagination and sends me home to spin my awkward words into gold.

Getting feedback is hard, but I believe it’s necessary, whether it comes from a critique group, a writing partner, beta readers, or your editor.

Listen for the magic, and then go back in there and cast your spell!

After all, we’re all sorcerers, and sorcerers need training, so we can turn our frogs into princes.


   About the Author: Aaron Michael Ritchey is the author of The Never Prayer and Long Live the Suicide King, both finalists in various contests. His latest novel, Elizabeth’s Midnight, will hit the streets May 7, 2015. In shorter fiction, his G.I. Joe inspired novella was an Amazon bestseller in Kindle Worlds and his steampunk story, “The Dirges of Percival Lewand” was part of The Best of Penny Dread Tales anthology published through Kevin J. Anderson’s WordFire Press. His upcoming young adult sci-fi/western epic series will also be published through WordFire Press. He lives in Colorado with his wife and two ancient goddesses of chaos posing as his daughters.


  1. Your posts on critiquers are priceless, Aaron. I belong to a great critique group, and the critiquers all have a different focus and style to their reading and evaluation. My favorite critiquer is the one who catches all my timeline errors. That's extra priceless!

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  3. Well said. I do believe that when critting: for every negative there should be a positive.


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