Criticism And The Human Condition


Why does the slightest criticism when it comes to writing make us cringe. Not so much with an essay, letter to an editor, or a check at the grocery story. But, for some reason, criticism for a work of fiction cuts us at a core level. Why? I believe it is because if we are writing honestly, we are releasing little bits about ourselves; who we are, a little at a time to see how the world responds to it. It’s kind of like an ashamed patient saying, “I have this friends who says it hurts when he/she…” Then, gauging by how the doctor responds, perhaps a bit more truth gets leaked.

It’s not that criticism regarding style, sentence construction, description or narrative is so difficult to listen to. After all, most writers I know are their own biggest critics and already believe their writing sucks on a mechanical level. It is that each character in a work of fiction is a representation of ourselves that we are gauging the world’s reaction to. Are they accepting or did they gasp in horror?

So, if you are a fiction writer who fears criticism then be encouraged. You are in the company of the greatest writers of all time, who, in spite of their fears wrote honestly and created the works of literary genius by which all other writing is judged. If the criticism cuts deeply, you are probably on the right track. Keep up the good work.

Tread boldly and make no apologies for it!

Writing Tip: How To Detect And Correct Nominalizations

A nominalization is a noun you’ve created from a verb or adjective.

Nominalization: The screeching unnerved the rookie.

Screeching is a noun form of the verb to screech. This sentence is weak because readers don’t know who is screeching. When you use the verb to screech you giver yourself room to identify the noisemaker.

Better: The uncooperative suspect screeched, unnerving the rookie.

Nominalizations contain up to three elements. Sometimes you see only one or two of them; other times, all three appear.

  1. A word such as a, an, the, his, her, these, or several.
  2. A noun such as utilization, sadness or taking. This is the only element that always appears in nominalizations.
  3. The word of.

Nominalization: The last step was the collection of the victim’s dust bunnies.

Here the verb to collect has become the noun collection. This sentence is vague because it doesn’t specify who is collecting the evidence. All becomes clear when you use the verb to collect as well as a specific subject.

Better: The forensics team collected the victim’s dust bunnies just before leaving the scene.

Now let’s do an examination of–oops, I mean let’s examine–a nominalization with two elements.

Nominalization: The senior citizen responded to the would-be robber with an exclamation: “Get your hands off my dentures!”

Here the verb to exclaim has become the noun exclamation. Let’s improve the sentence.

Better: The senior citizen exclaimed to the would-be robber, “Get your hands off my dentures!”

Finally, here’s a nominalization with just one element.

Nominalization: Happiness was evident after the clown was arrested.

The sentence is poor because it fails to mention who is happy.

Better: The detective was happy after she arrested the clown.

Nouns that end in -tion and -ing are often nominalizations. Even the word nominalization is a nominalization (it comes from the verb to nominalize).


  1. Nominalizations allow you to omit the subject. When you don’t say who is doing the action, your sentences become vague.
  2. Nominalizations often force you to use weak verbs. Vague subjects go hand in hand with weak verbs such as to be and to do. Although these verbs are integral parts of English, your writing can get rather monotonous if every sentence contains a was or were.
  3. Nominalizations are often wordy. When you reword nominalizations, your sentences usually become more concise.


You should use a specific subject in most cases. However, a nominalization is acceptable if you don’t know who is doing the action, or if the subject is unimportant.

The disappearance of every rat in town puzzled the police.

Paraphrased from The Curious Case Of The Misplaced Modifier by Bonnie Trenga ISBN: 978-1-58297-561-2