Wednesday, April 24, 2013

The Critique Sandwich: Tough to Swallow?

Most writers partake of (choke on?) some version of the Critique Sandwich (whether they are aware of it or not).  It goes like this:  to avoid completely demoralizing a writer, the critique partner (editor, loved one, etc.) says something positive first, then follows with what needs improving, then ends with something positive.

When we’re lucky, the ‘filling’ on the critique sandwich isn’t so thick as to overwhelm the ‘bread.’

I’ve been an editor for too many years to count. When I was younger, I was often guilty of throwing a whole lot of filling at writers without softening the critique. I thought I was being direct, saving everyone time, getting to the point.

Well, ladies and gentlemen…during those years, I missed the point completely.

People matter. People’s feelings matter. And there are always nuggets of gold buried in what we may think of as the worst essay, book, short story, poem, song or painting. 

The life of a creative is hard enough. We battle our own inner critic and self-doubt daily. Encouragement of any kind can make the difference in someone forging ahead or giving up her creative dreams.

Today, I received the nicest rejection from a literary agent. Just the right amount of bread and filling -- definitely not a Dagwood special. Instead of being utterly disappointed, I’m feeling pretty upbeat.


  1. Yes, in whatever endeavor we pursue, Durango Writer, people’s feelings matter. Our society, our world, has forgotten this. Hopefully we can resurrect this concept, one person at a time!

  2. Absolutely!!!
    I framed the first rejection letter I ever received--because the agent said some very nice things about my writing and the story. Even though it was a rejection, it validated my efforts. Those words, along with the comments of my beta readers, gave me the courage to keep trying.

  3. Absolutely not. Grown up should be strong enough to accept a direct critique. Youth should be trained so they can act like grown up. Using the critique sandwich method is the best way to create a culture of the face like the ones you have in China, Japan or Korea for example.

    If you can't accept a direct critique, you should know the problem is your ego, your own vanity and not the one who is being sincere in front of you.