Writers can be a funny lot. They like feedback and they love the fact people are reading their work but they can be sensitive about the way it is perceived. It makes sense, a writer puts a lot of their life into their work so a little bit of sensitivity should be expected. So when a writer asks you to critique their work, they need it to be helpful. One of the worst things you can say to a writer is the phrase ‘I don’t get it’.
So here are some alternatives:
I don’t like it
This statement is actually quite legitimate when you think about the range of tastes that people have, writers can understand when you just say that the work is not for you. It is perfectly fine for you to not like something and acknowledging the fact can actually be re-assuring for the writer, if you provide some additional reasons. You can say anything from ‘I don’t like the genre’ to ‘I don’t like the style’. Other people may love the genre and the style, a good writer should understand that they won’t please everyone.
I don’t want to read it
If you don’t want to do something, don’t do it. It’s better for everyone if you just say no to the writer and let them find someone else who is interested. You can still be friends, hang out on the weekend, have coffee and talk about things that aren’t related to their story . Your friends for a reason right?
I don’t think I have the skills
Don’t think you know what you’re doing? That’s fine, let the writer know before you start, they might like to find someone else, or they might just ask you to give a simple answer like: Did you like it? Without requiring the additional, what did you like? Set the ground rules at the start so they know what to expect at the end.
I don’t know that word
Can’t figure out what a writer is saying? Grab a dictionary and teach yourself a new word! It can be really grating for a writer to spend time and effort in finding the right description, only to have someone say they don’t know the word. So if you don’t know a word, find out what it means. You can then tell the writer, with absolute certainty, if it fits into their narrative and if it doesn’t grab a thesaurus and make a suggestion.
I don’t think you’ve captured
Before you talk with writer, stop and have a think: What do you think they are trying to say? If you can figure out what they are trying to say then you can let them know where they’ve gone wrong. Giving writers’ specific problems enables them to fix the issues without worrying about changing their overall narrative.
Which leads us into…
I don’t think we should do this sober
Do you have bad news to deliver? Grab the writer a drink and let them down as easy as you can. The best thing you can do as a friend is remind them that they have a life outside of their story.
I don’t think you should quit your day job
Sometimes you’ll need to deliver a reality check, if the drink hasn’t helped it might be time to just make it quite clear that they should probably think about other career paths. It’s hard, but it is better than stringing them along. If they disagree, then they’ll just ignore your advice.
Self care is the key in all this, don’t do anything you are uncomfortable with, you are doing the writer a favour, not the other way around. Make sure they know the boundaries at the start and you will both have a much better experience.
Thanks for reading!