Thursday, August 20, 2009

Critiques

After working alone for a few years, piling up manuscripts in various stages of development, and bugging my family and friends to give their opinions on my work, I knew I needed someone to rip into the work and tell me exactly what wasn't working. "It's good! I love it!" puffed up my ego and it felt really good but I knew those rejections would keep coming if I didn't get the truth from other writers.

It's hard to hand over your work to strangers and I had put it off long enough. It was time to join a critique group. That is not easy! Most are full and have definite requirements for newbies. That's understandable since the groups have studied and progressed and don't want to start over from the beginning with a newcomer. It took months of searching the SCBWI boards and Verla Kay. I learned from others that not all critique groups are a good fit and they were right. I also learned that when you find the right one--it's wonderful!

I wound up joining and leaving a couple in the beginning because of a variety of reasons. One group I joined was made up of all newbies like me and we really knew nothing about critiquing. We floundered and I moved on to a group of experienced writers with a couple of newbies. We did well for each other--and then no one posted because we got busy with our lives and it died a slow death.

The last group I belonged to is still going strong and was the best fit. This time I left since I couldn't devote the time needed and that wasn't fair to them. They are an amazing group of writers who promised to take me back when I was ready. I miss them!

The one thing I learned from the experience is that most people, including me, don't know how to give a really good critique. I did the best I could and became better at it but the same questions kept popping up.

  1. Where do I start? Do I concentrate on grammar, spelling, punctuation, or skip that and go into characters, plot, dialogue?
  2. How do I tell someone that their baby isn't working right? And if it's not, do I know enough to point out exactly what will make it work?
  3. If they've been at this for a while they've probably developed a thick skin but I still have to be careful not to hurt their feelings so how do I maintain a balance between criticism and praise?
  4. Why is it that some people have to be told the same thing over and over again? Can I say it once and then ignore it the next time?

Today someone told me about Linda Sue Park's website and her page on Critiques. Her advice covers it all! When I begin my critiques again--I'm going to be a whole lot better at it!

http://www.lindasuepark.com/writing/critique.html

2 comments:

  1. I've just begun the search for a critique group! I'm still in the "my mommy says it's perfect" stage of my writing. I'm ready to move on to constructive criticism. I had an MS consult with Lindsay Davis at the SCBWI conference and it was wonderful! So anyway, thanks for posting about how you went about it!

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  2. Thanks, and good luck with your search. When you find the right one it is amazingly enlightening!

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