Five (Plus Four) Tips for Making the Most of Your Critique

GIF by Isabella Kung

GIF by Isabella Kung

The ability to receive a critique with an open mind and the willingness to change course when needed is one of the hallmarks of a professional writer or illustrator. But no matter how “pro” you go, sometimes feedback stings. With that in mind, here’s some advice for the 20+6 big winners of the MEGA SOARING ’20s CRITIQUE GIVEAWAY. (Follow the link to enter by the end of the day September 15 and you could be a winner, too!)


1. Don’t take it personally.

“The best way to receive a critique is to decide ahead of time that you are not going to take it personally, that you are going to listen and use the bits that are helpful, that resonate with you, and graciously let the rest go.”

Anna Crowley Redding, author


2. Stay open.

“I try to stay open when receiving a critique, knowing that it’s one of the best ways to improve my craft and improve the experience for the reader. It’s all in the spirit of making the work the best that it can be.”

Angela Burke Kunkel, author
DIGGING FOR WORDS: José Alberto Gutiérrez and the Library He Built (Random House/Schwartz & Wade, fall 2020)


3. Aim for improvement.

“Most people tend to lean a little too far toward wanting validation on the one hand, or needing perfection on the other. If you find yourself struggling with a critique, try ditching these as goals and aim for improvement instead.”

Kjersten Anna Hayes, author
THE ELEPHANTS’ GUIDE TO HIDE-AND-SEEK (Sourcebooks Jabberwocky, spring 2020)


4. Pause.

“The best thing you can do when you receive feedback on a manuscript is to pause and consider. Don’t whip out the red pen and immediately take action, but don’t whip out a sword and stab the critiquer either!”

Kelly Carey, author
HOW LONG IS FOREVER (Charlesbridge, spring 2020)


5. Get back to work.

“You received a critique! Now what? Read through, and savor the praise. Take note of what is working. Then focus on those comments that ask questions and/or suggest changes—even if, at first, they seem to make no sense. Let the feedback simmer for a few days so that you can decide what aligns with your vision for the story. Then get back to work and make that story shine!”

Joana Pastro, author
LILLYBELLE, A DAMSEL NOT IN DISTRESS (Boyds Mills & Kane, fall 2020)


Some winners will receive their critiques over the phone or via video chat. Illustrator/author Isabella Kung (NO FUZZBALL!, Scholastic, Summer 2020) has some tips for taking advantage of real-time critiques:

1. Take notes.

It might be difficult to digest all the feedback given to you in the moment. It might even provoke an emotional response. Jot down all the important points and review them the next day when you can examine everything objectively.

2. Ask questions.

The critique is useless if you don’t understand it, so ask your critiquer to elaborate if something seems vague.

3. Resist the urge to defend your work.

Responding defensively or giving excuses sends a signal that you are not receptive to feedback. Even if you don’t agree with the feedback or advice, simply nod, take notes, and move on to the next point.

4. Pay attention to the WHY.

It is okay to not apply every piece of advice offered—it’s your story and tastes can be subjective—but do pay attention to why the reviewer thinks a certain element needs improvement.


There are just a few days left to enter the MEGA SOARING ’20s CRITIQUE GIVEAWAY to win a picture book manuscript, dummy, or portfolio critique with one of these (and other) Soaring ’20s members. The contest runs through 11:59 p.m. September 15, 2019. Winners will be announced on September 17!