I am breaking my blogging silence this week to speak up on behalf of authors everywhere who suffer from needlessly harsh critiques. I'm disturbed by some that I've encountered on certain websites lately. It seems that some of my fellow wanna-be-pubbed's are getting a case of "Author Fail."
The above quote is by Abraham Lincoln, who also said "If you look for the bad in people, expecting to find it, you surely will." It seems that some critics are always looking for the bad, and always finding it.
I have to include myself in this, because there are times that I have been harsh without intending to. The Internet is a difficult mode of communication because it allows for no tone of voice or inflection. The words - and ideas - are laid bare on the screen, and are thus usually read in the worst possible light. This is one case in which I think softening phrases are not just allowable, but absolutely necessary for polite communication. "Very" "perhaps" "a little" "sort of." I advise you to sprinkle these phrases liberally throughout your critiques.
Remember that for every sample of writing, whether good or bad, there is a person behind it who has put their heart and soul into it. Some are inexperienced and desperately need encouragement. Others may be so shy that it has taken great courage to submit even in an anonymous forum such as the Internet. Every critique is subjective, and styles vary greatly.
It is not surprising that the worst critics are those who are the least likely to put their own samples up! Perhaps this is not that they are raving hypocrites, but because they are such perfectionists that they can't bear the scrutiny they expect to receive. I'm always willing to give someone the benefit of the doubt.
All I ask is that benefit in return.
"He has a right to criticize who has a heart to help."