What’s the Big Wooha with Critiques?

When I started writing, I’d never heard of a critique group or partner. I just wrote. I wasn’t sure if my writing was decent or not. It bothered me. My husband was not a big reader, and having my young daughters (both avid readers) read the erotic romances I wrote just didn’t seem all too appealing. I did a bit of research and found the concept of critters. After some time, I finally joined a critique group.

My original purpose of joining a critique group was to receive help with my writing. I wanted to know if my writing was rockin’ or not. I thought critiquing the work of others was just a chore I’d have to do in order to reap the benefits of having others review my work. The help I’ve received from critters reviewing my work has been awesome! As a new writer, they pointed out issues which never even crossed my mind. However, there are so many other benefits to critiquing than just receiving a critique.

One advice I’ve found time and time again is to read, read, read the genre you write. It gives you an opportunity to see different styles of writing. Same thing with critiquing. Reading another individual’s work gives you as an author the opportunity to see what works and what doesn’t. As you point out awkward issues in another person’s writing, you might also find similarities in your own work. If nothing else, it might help you avoid making those same mistakes while drafting.

Don’t just stop at giving and receiving critiques. Take time to check out the critiques of others. Use it as a learning experience. After I critique a work, I find it particularly helpful to read other critiques on the same piece of work. Sometimes critters point out issues I overlooked or didn’t realize was problematic because of my lack of experience.

My encounters with other critters has been invaluable in my ongoing commitment to learn the trade. If you don’t have a critique partner or group, I highly suggest finding one. Friends and family are great for building up the ego (usually), but they may not have the qualifications or gumption to offer a real assessment of your work.

Keep in mind, critiquing is subjective. Critters come with various knowledge bases, experiences, and tastes–just like readers. Keep or trash whatever works while taking advantage of the diversity.

A couple of critique groups I’ve used and enjoyed are RWCcritique and Scribophile. Please feel free to comment on critique groups you’ve used and value.

Do Your Lips Move When You Edit?

This is just a short post. I’ve been pressed for time and dead beat. 🙂

So I ask you. As a writer, do your lips move when you edit? No? Well, maybe it’s time to change your methods.

This week I rediscovered The Art of Reading Aloud. 🙂 I kinda like that title.

Anyway, I do most of my edits in silence. Shame. Shame. For me, silent edits are similar to skimming a book. I can catch a few of the errors, but quite a bit slips past. But reading out loud is a whole other story. I find so many mistakes when I hear what I read. For one, reading aloud forces me to slow down. No longer the silent skimmer, I articulate each word. Yes it’s time consuming but well worth the efforts when it comes to readability, flow, and style.

So if your lips don’t move while you edit, give it a try. Be your own critter and force those critique partners to work hard to find asinine issues with your work.

Working with Your Pet Peeves

Everyone has their pet peeves. One thing to keep in mind is pet peeves are about the person who holds them, not the person who’s doing the evil deed. Generally, people are not out to get you (unless we’re talking family). They’re not trying to push your buttons.

If you have a pet peeve in writing, think of it as an asset rather than another way for others to irritate you. As a critique partner, your pet peeves can come in handy. Why? Because when you see the particular item, it stands out to you in a way that may not have stood out to the writer. It’s an opportunity for you give your valuable expertise to someone less experienced in a particular topic.

For example, I don’t know about others, but homonym (who’s versus whose, it’s versus its, your versus you’re, past versus passed, and there versus their versus) are my biggest problems and mistakes I make all the time. It’s not that I don’t know the difference or when to use them. It’s more on the line of human error. I have to make an extra check in my mind while typing homonyms. I’m pretty sure I type the way I read (by the word rather than the letter, unless I have to sound things out). So when it comes to homonyms, I’m guessing the first word that pops into my mind is the one I type.

If I realize it’s one of my problem words, I’ll stop and check it in my head before continuing to type. If not, I might gloss over it. Later, I may or may not catch it in editing. Just like anyone else editing their work, I don’t always catch all my mistakes. I also find it easier to spot glitches in another person’s work than my own. And we know spell/grammar check is not perfect. There are programs, like autocrit, which do identify homonyms and other errors writers should check though, but even those are not infallible. So I make the mistake. And yeah, misusing homonyms are on a lot of people’s pet peeve (say that fast three times) list. Then again, I’ve got my own set of pet peeves.

Anyway, I had a writer read one of my manuscripts recently. She pointed out several misuses of words (administrations versus ministrations and purses versus pierces, etc) which I had. Honestly, I had no idea I used them incorrectly. I also didn’t realize how often I used the terms in my manuscript (which was more than I liked). For me, having her point it out was an invaluable learning experience. If not for her, those errors would likely still be in my manuscript. I’m 30something and still learning new grammar rules and new vocabulary. Last year I learned the difference between lay versus lie.

For me, writing is a journey. I learn as I go. I understand that everyone is at different levels in their writing experience. The compiled writing list of rules are  excellent tools, but not everyone is there yet. Not everyone knows about the guidelines. I believe part of the job of a critique partner is to point writers in the right direction. Show them the guidelines and refer them to resources which will help.

Critiquing combines the idea of give a man a fish versus teach a man to fish and lead a horse to water. We, as critique partners, can just go through and make the changes, or we can explain the guidelines. We can make suggestions, but we can’t force our partners to use them.

So I say, keep your pet peeves. Don’t yank your hair out when you encounter them. Instead take them and use them to help someone else through constructive criticism.

Keep or Trash

If you’re like me, you can’t wait to receive the next critique of your chapter, story, novel, whatever.

“You’ve got mail.”

You click the flashing envelope one to many times and wait for the multiple windows to load. Then the critique…

Your critter has found so many things you’ve missed, and you’re so thankful s/he took the time to review your work. Then you come across something that just doesn’t jive with you. What is your critter talking about? Doesn’t s/he get it? Did s/he even read the chapter? Then the doubts kick in. Maybe you didn’t make it clear enough. Maybe you should just delete it all. STOP!

Be objective about the critiques; they’re meant to help you, not hinder you. If you take the advice of every single critter out there regardless of whether it goes against your instincts or not, your book will be TRASH. Not all advice is worthy of your book, as interesting as the opinion may be.

Read a critique with the the idea you’ll incorporate the sound advice and set the “other stuff” to the side. Writing is about artistic freedom, make it fun!

Everyone has their own particular opinions, likes and dislikes. Some people will enjoy your style, others will not. Accept that and move on.