Wednesday, February 3, 2021

ISWG: The Critique Sandwich

I once heard a local author, who won an Oregon Book Award, speak. During the Q & A, someone asked him about getting critiques on his work. He said something to the effect of, “I just give my book to people who I know will say they like it.”

We all laughed.

It’s true for me. I would love to just give my work to people who say they like it.  Wouldn’t that be nice?

In SCBWI, they advise us to use a critique sandwich when giving critiques. The bread—what you say first and at the end—should be something positive. The criticism should come in the middle.
It is not bad advice. I wished I had known about it earlier. As a special ed teacher, I am often in the position to give bad news.

And I try hard to follow that advice as a critiquer. I always start off with something good.

But when I think about the critiques I have received, I see that sometimes I get a thick slice of bread on the sandwich, sometimes a thin slice, and sometimes no slice at all.

When I first get them, I love the thick slices of bread the best. I can pat myself on the back. I’ve done a great job; I just have a few minor things to fix.

If the bread is thin, I’m a little less confident. Now it’s usually major things to fix, but I still feel like it’s possible. I don’t have to start over or anything.

It’s when (and not often) that I’ve gotten critiques with little or no bread that I usually felt defeated at first. I may even want to give up entirely. I have been known to shed a few tears as well.

In fact, I have a manuscript right now that I’m stalled on, because I’m still processing the feedback I’ve gotten on it.

But I’m trying to be patient. I know in the past, it takes time to see the breadless critiques for what they truly are: a gift. Since I haven't been lulled by lots of compliments, the comments stand out more. I take them more seriously. I am more apt to make major changes. And that is what makes the difference.

I’m apt to forget the nice words, but I don’t forget the critical comments. I don’t think that’s a bad thing. It’s criticism, especially when it’s given to me straight, that make me step up my game and want to be a better writer.

So although I’d rather just hear that someone likes my work, I know it’s better for me as a writer if I hear someone doesn’t.

Still, I won't be ordering paleo sandwiches any time soon.

What do you think? How do you like your critiques? What kind of critiquer are you?
*I didn't answer this month's question, because I didn't think I could make a full blogpost out of it. But, yes, ISWG is my online writer's group. Even when in-person events were occurring, I found it hard to get to them consistently, so thank you to you all for your supportive comments that keep me going!
I also have to shout out to Marvelous Middle Grade Monday, which is my online kidlit reading club. Finally, I found my tribe of adults who read kids' books. 
What about you? Have you found friendships online through the blogosphere? 

To sign up or read more Insecure Writer's Support Group posts, go HERE.
Photo by Erin Wang from Pexels


  1. I love the MMGM group too and am glad to find a group of bloggers who like middle grade too. And my critique group and I follow the sandwich method of critiquing too. I have stopped minding the critical comments and have tried to embrace the changes my group suggested with the current manuscript I'm writing. It's really helped strengthen my plot and take my story in good directions I wouldn't have thought of myself. Hope your critiques can help you like that too.

  2. I like quadruple layered sandwiches. Toss in a few compliments here and there and I can handle the rest.

  3. I mean, who doesn't like hearing praise of our work? But it's the meat of the sandwich that makes us better writers. I'm confident in my writing skills, but that doesn't mean the scenes and characters in my head always translate effectively onto the page, so I'm grateful to the critique partners who give it to me straight. I wish you happy writing in February.

  4. Hi,
    I am suspicious of someone who critiques me and only see negatives. I question whether their motivation is to help me or knock me down. When I toss that around and come up with an answer, I move on.

    Shalom aleichem,
    Pat G @ EverythingMustChange

  5. You know I'm a big fan of MMGM! As for critiques, there is something good in every manuscript, so when giving a critique, one should be able to give some bread! Thanks for a thoughtful post.

  6. I like my critiques constructive and specific. Tell me what works, tell me what doesn't. General comments (it's great! it sucks!) won't help me become a better writer. But, like most people, I can obsess about the negative comments. I'm trying to get past that and grow a thicker skin, but it's a struggle.

  7. I write my reviews much this way, and try to cut thick slices of bread! I do read a lot of books that I really don't like at all, but try to stick to the same method of reviews even if I am not going to buy the book. In my world, if someone just tells me nice things, I feel like they didn't pay attention! Thank you for this insight into constructive criticism.

  8. I try to do the sandwich thing myself. I remember on one occasion when I was participating in a generally friendly writing competition and one person was rude to me early on in the comments. I was a bit salty and sarcastic with her because of her tone with me but I left it at that. It was like blood in the water though, because a bunch of other commenters jumped on me, insulting my work. It got so bad that one of the group's organizers called people out on their behavior. It reminded me of being back in school. I've never had anything like that happen again. I have to say, I'm still salty about it.