Critique Group

Someone reading this might think this is a post on critique groups—people who give opinions on manuscripts. I’ll get to what I mean by it. But first: there have been many TV shows and other media content that have been deemed controversial. And critics weigh in on the controversies in their reviews of said media. That’s their job. But what I’ve been seeing lately are videos devoted to explaining how awful one particular show is—how bad the writing is, how deplorable the characterization, etc. No, I will not name the show. I was struck by how much hatred the show has garnered by people who continue to watch it.

If I don’t like a show, I’m not going to continue watching it. Watching more episodes, at least for me, is a waste of time and also gives tacit agreement to its continuation. Maybe I’m silly, but that’s how I feel. Sometimes, however, I’ll give a show a second chance if someone close to me tells me that something shifted in the show and it’s worth my time to reengage.

Critics review films and TV shows because they love the media, though they might dislike a movie or an episode of a TV show. A reviewer whose reviews I really like (I won’t mention his name either) reviewed some episodes of the show to which I am referring. After stating what he disliked about it, he stopped reviewing further episodes of the show on his channel. If he doesn’t like something, he doesn’t continue to review it.

Jay Sherman, main character of The Critic, a show created by Al Jean and Mike Reiss and voiced by Jon Lovitz

Okay. I know you’re probably wondering at my obstinance about withholding information. The point of this post isn’t so much about a particular show that people hate but the fact that critique groups have spawned just to spread hatred for it. My question for them is, what are you building? We all know how easy it is to criticize something. It’s not so easy to build a world of your own.

I saw one positive review of the show by an author with multiple books in the genre. He was excited and happy to see the show. Perhaps he could be objective, because he’s already building his own literary landscapes.

That is what really stuck with me: someone who isn’t just hating on something, but is busy with his own work, yet willing to express positivity about someone else’s work.

I have to tell on myself here. I know about the many, many videos criticizing the show because I sought them out. I sat there watching several of them, wallowing in my anger about certain aspects of the show, just as I did when I saw a movie on Netflix that I disliked. I wanted to find someone who agreed with my perspective, who felt as angry as I did. But in those hours—literally hours—of watching content creators spewing their dislike, was I working on my own stories? Was I shoring up my world building so that my world feels as real as Narnia? Absolutely not. I was feeding something that wouldn’t take me anywhere.

One summer, I read over 100 middle grade books. I couldn’t get enough of them. I kept going to the library and pulling them off the shelf. I was hungry to build my own literary worlds. I needed to feed that with good books. After that, for two solid years I read nothing but middle grade and young adult novels. The only material for adults I read were craft books and books I used for research. All of this was fuel to take me where I needed to go in my writing.

So, in my contemplation of the critique groups of one particular show, I’m reminded to focus on what is needful for my writer’s soul. To focus on what feeds, rather than depletes.

What feeds you? What depletes? Feel free to comment below.

P.S. In response to Marian Beaman’s latest post, here is a picture of some trees in my area.

The Critic image found somewhere online. Critic sign from Fall trees photo by L. Marie.

31 thoughts on “Critique Group

  1. You know, L. Marie, you’ve touched on something that has often surprised me – the attraction people have to negative reviews of things they already don’t like. As you know, I occasionally blast a book! In fact, I give more than half of all books I read five stars, and the majority of the rest four stars (naturally, since I love reading). But it is always the relatively few negative reviews people remember. On Goodreads, where I have over a thousand reviews, of which only around 40-50 are 1-stars, eight of my top ten reviews in terms of “likes” are from those 1-stars. They also garner most comments, from people saying basically how relieved they are to find they’re not alone in their opinion. It’s as if we need a kind of validation for not liking something, especially if it’s something most people seem to like.
    But you’re also right about “critique groups”. Meghan Markle’s podcast is a case in point – the hatred it attracts is out of all proportion to its content. (I’ve never listened to it – I’m going purely on media reports of its content.) People listen to it just so they can join in with group hatred sessions on social media. Then they say the podcast can’t be nearly as popular as the ratings suggest, and I always feel like pointing out that listening just to hate something pushes it up the ratings as much as listening to love it! It’s a weird, and not very appealing, trend that social media seems to have created or at least facilitated.

    • Totally get what you mean, FF. You know I love your one-star reviews because they are entertaining. And yes, I appreciate the validation when we share an opinion. But one thing I know about you—you don’t continue to review books by authors you don’t enjoy. Otherwise, your blog would be full of Steinbeck books. You also express why you’re disappointed by the books that let you down. That shows love of what you’re doing, rather than cynicism. The reviewer I mentioned is the same way. When he talked about the show I mentioned but didn’t name, the disappointment he felt was evident. He expected better and was sorry that he didn’t find it. But he didn’t want to join the mob of haters. He pulled himself out of it, just like you do.

  2. “So, in my contemplation of the critique groups of one particular show, I’m reminded to focus on what is needful for my writer’s soul. To focus on what feeds, rather than depletes.” Amen, my friend! You have to wonder about people who make it their mission in life to tear others down with such hateful words. I doubt they are living a happy and productive life. Life is too short to be distracted by those kind of people. Great topic, L. Marie!

    • So true, Jill. And I’m sorry to say that I had to count myself in that rabble. It’s so easy to get caught up in the mob and forget the consequences. I’m suddenly reminded of a warning a group I was with was given in regard to Mardi Gras (long story, so I’ll just give you the short version)—if a mob breaks out and you’re in the vicinity, the police will round up everyone, including you., even if you’ve done nothing wrong. They’ll grab everyone and sort things out later. Very sobering.

  3. Wow! I open your post this morning and see a link to mine. Thank you, generous soul!

    Your post tricked me a little, thinking you were going to discuss writers’ critique groups. But now I see the shift to TV show critics. Your reference reminded me of two reliable film critics of days gone by: Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert. I enjoyed their opinion pieces because they were never nasty, although they often had opposing viewpoints.

    I don’t have time or energy for the negative. I agree, I must feed on what nourishes, not depletes. So, today I plan to join a group of friends to see the Van Gogh experience in our city. I hope to be transported from the ordinary (revising a manuscript) to something grand.

    Thanks for publishing a post–once again–that inspires me to choose the good, L. Marie!

  4. (Trying to reply with shoddy Internet.)I think you’ve run into 3 factors. First, there’s a big culture of hate-watching. People will stick with something they despise out of spite. They also are told they can’t complain unless they’ve watched it, so they suffer to make sure their words have weight. Second, many YouTube critics get tons of views and money from the criticism. They lean into the hate to make money and vent their frustrations. Third, companies now use the hate for promotions. They set this stuff up and antagonize critics as you can see with Rings of Power and She-Hulk. They want the fighting. They really want the bigots to jump in because then they paint all critics as such. It’s all a game now with art coming in secondary.

  5. Yes, yes, you are so right about how weird and sad it is to find a group of people who hate on something, like a TV show, then continue to watch the show just to be able to continue hating. I DON’T GET IT. It’s like hate-following in FB and seems insane to me. If I like something I follow along; if I don’t like something I don’t make a big deal of it and just walk away from it. I don’t want to be defined by what I dislike, I want to be defined by what I like.

    • Great point, Ally, about refusing to be defined by what you don’t like. Hate watching is such a seductive trap. It’s like a bear trap—one that I stuck my own foot in, then wondered why I was in more pain when it snapped shut on it.

  6. Basically:
    Criticism is personal, destructive, vague, inexpert, ignorant, and selfish.
    Critique is impersonal, constructive, specific, expert, informed and selfless.

    In the face of passive armchair critics that actively tear down & find fault, I have learned to say to myself, “At least I’m out there ‘doing’ my (he)art. What are you ‘doing'”?
    Further, I cherish the gift of a detailed critique/review of my performance/work.

    I am happy to hear of your return to focus on what really matters: the nourishment of your soul and consequent continuation of ‘doing’ your (he)art.

  7. Great post, LM.

    When I watch a TV show and don’t like it . . . I do not keep watching episode after episode so that I can tune in to the negative reviews and nod knowingly. Instead, I turn my attention to other endeavors or entertainments.

    When I am reading a book and don’t like it . . . I do not stop reading it until after checking out a few reviews. If the negative reviews mirror my opinion and the positive reviews do not make me reconsider, then I set the book aside. I do not seek out other books by the same author. Life is too short.

    • Thanks, Nancy! I hear you on the book reviews. I’ve done that too. I love this: “I do not keep watching episode after episode so that I can tune in to the negative reviews and nod knowingly.” So true!! 😅😅

  8. Great post, Linda! I must admit there are moments I need to vent, sometimes more than once, but that’s usually about something big and out of my control like the economy or Covid, etc. But books and tv and films – I don’t read or view again if I dislike. I have finished a book I didn’t care for before, but that’s usually with the mindset ‘here’s what not to do when writing.’ But I know writing is hard and personal, and what works for some doesn’t for others.

    • Thanks, Sharon! 😊 Very true. You and I have had many discussions on this subject. Writing is hard and criticizing is easy. But a good critique is hard too. I remember many packet letters Mary Quattlebaum sent me that set in the direction I needed to go.

  9. I continue to read books or watch TV shows that are good but not great. The great ones only come around every so often. A simply-good book or show still can be enjoyable. It can also have faults. So I’m not surprised if a critic finds those faults. That’s inevitable. When I read book reviews on Amazon, I read both positive and negative reviews, and I try not to be overly influenced by either.

    • Nicki, I also read positive and negative reviews. I find the three-star reviews are often the most informative for some novels. Granted, no author wants a three-star review (though many of those turn out to be 3.5 star reviews, but there is no half-star to choose from). But on those NYT bestsellers that so many people rave about (some of which I haven’t liked), I turn to the three star reviews—at least those that aren’t complaining about a delivery issue that has nothing whatsoever to do with the writing.

  10. I don’t know what TV show you are referring to but I experience the same online by Doctor Who fans constantly criticising Doctor Who. When I was a postman there was a woman there who complained about the job, hated the job. I left sixteen years ago. She’s still there.

    • Andy, I didn’t mention the name of the show, because there is such a climate of hatred toward it, I didn’t want to encourage more of it. I’ve seen the hate for Doctor Who. I’ll bet some of the ones criticizing it are still watching it in order to criticize it. 😔

  11. You’re right, and I’m ashamed to admit I get sucked into complaining with others who dislike the same things as me. This is a good reminder to change the channel, put away a book and move on rather than wallowing in negativity.

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