Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Writing Wednesday - Critiques

The contractor is gone for the day, there is an apple cake in the oven, my critiques for the week are done and I have another hour and a half before the kids get home from school.

Time to write!

But first - a quick post for Writing Wednesday. Since I spent the morning doing critiques, I have that on my mind.

Writing is fun. Writing is largely a solitary endeavor. And it is very easy to become enamored of ones own turn of phrase to see if what is on the paper is very good or not. That's where a good critique comes into play.

For a long time a friend and I critiqued each others' work. Of course we knew each other so well - and our writing style's so well, that it was almost like reading your own - with the same pitfalls.

About a year and a half ago I joined a wonderful critique group (and now belong to two wonderful critique groups). They are both on-line - with weekly deadlines. It works very well for me.

Now I get opinions from a variety of people - each of whom takes a slightly different approach to the things they look for and critique on - which is great - because it truly gives a well rounded view point in the end.

I have learned so much about what works and what doesn't in my own writing and in others' and really think I am a better writer today because of the groups.

So - aside from singing the praises of these groups - what can I say about critiquing?

1) Don't be offended if someone isn't as enamored with your pithy wordings as you are. Take all criticism and comments in the spirit offered - a spirit of trying to help everyone do their best.

2) When critiquing offer all your comments and criticisms in the spirit of trying to help everyone do their best. (see #1)

3) Be specific. "It's all great" might make the writer feel good - but it won't help her improve. What things did you have questions on? What things did you think could be better? And also - what things did you love? Critiques don't only have to point out things that are "wrong" they can also (and should also) point out the things that are right. Everyone likes to know when they hit that home run.

Okay - that's all I've got for today. Off to do some writing!


beth said...

One thing that I learned was to not suggest ways to fix a problem. I suggested to a member of my critique group that she organize her plot with a timeline, and she found that very offensive (she felt the tone was that I was superior and trying to "teach her"). That's just my experience!

Christine M said...

Perhaps if you want to suggest something you can couch it in terms of "this worked for me". Or maybe with some people you shouldn't suggest things.

Though it seems to me that if you want to be in a critique group it's silly to not pay attention to advice offered - you can ignore advice - but why shun it?

Sarah Rettger said...

For me, the deadline aspect of the critique group has been almost as useful as all the feedback. I'm coming to terms with the fact that I'm much better about making progress when I have a deadline in front of me (even when I fudge it a little, like this week).

PJ Hoover said...

Nice post! All of it! And it's important to read all feedback and know you don't have to take it all!

Jim D said...

You make important points that critiques taken and given in the spirit of helping. One other observation is that there is trust within critique groups that builds over time. That trust is needed for the recipient of critique to know the spirit is one of helping.

Oh, I DO miss FFW!

Jim D

Christine M said...

We miss you too, Jim. It was nice having a guy's perspective on things. I hope your revisions are going well! I'll be looking for your books in the bookstore one of these days, I know I will.