What’s Your Writing Critique Horror Story?

October is poised on the eve of NaNoWriMo. The month itself cools in preparation for what is to come; the frenzy of too many words and too much caffeine. October is the hushed breath just before the plunge.”

Did you like that? That’s what I’m going to be doing all next month for NaNoWriMo: writing terrible sentences without any sense of shame or literary decency. Look, there’s a reason why it’s taken me years to rewrite the story I wrote for my first successful NaNoWriMo in 2009.

Come to think of it, that’s probably not a resounding endorsement.

Anyway, I’m trying to get myself geared up for NaNoWriMo 2013. It’s been difficult to get my brain working, what with the World of WarCraft addiction and my grad school and such. I’m trying to get writing back into the forefront of my brain again, which you can tell based on the sudden uptick in posts last week.

I was thinking about critique and feedback I’ve received over the years. A good critique is an amazing thing, of course, and one should never ignore critiques even if one disagrees with them. Feedback is always valuable.

That being said.

Look, I think we can all agree that if you’ve ever taken a creative writing class or joined a writing group, you’ve heard some pretty stupid comments. In fact, I’m willing to go one better and admit that I have made some pretty stupid comments. This post isn’t about sharing the horrible feedback you’ve received, but horrible feedback you’ve given to another writer. At some point in your development as a writer, you have been called on to critique another story and at least once, you probably screwed up monumentally, even if you didn’t realize how bad that feedback was until years later when you finally knew better.

While I have several critiques that I’m not proud of in retrospect, there’s only one comment I ever made that I’m truly and deeply ashamed of:

It was for a college freshman poetry class. I don’t remember what the style of poem was supposed to be or even what my poem was like. All I know was that I was looking for something to say during the critique and totally drawing a blank.

One of the poem’s lines referenced Kerouac. I don’t remember what the line was exactly; something like “being on the road, Kerouac’s road,” etc.

In my critique, I told the writer that her poem would be improved if there was something in the poem that told us who Kerouac was, something that gave the reader a little more context about “this Kerouac guy.”

Yes, that’s correct; as a college freshman studying creative writing, I didn’t know who Kerouac was. And I unknowingly admitted it to my entire class.

To this day, the shame haunts me.

So what’s your writing critique horror story? Feel free to share in the comments. Please remember that we’re all friends here, so when we laugh at one another, we are indeed laughing at you rather than with you, but we’re laughing out of love.

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