Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Let's talk critique - Help or hinder?

As tonight I am meeting some writers for a critique group, I thought it would be appropriate to discuss writing critiques.

Four of us are meeting at a local restaurant in Lowell to show what we have worked on. A couple of us will bring the start of a new story (like me), another will bring his ending to his WIP (Yea!), and yet another will bring her latest chapter in her WIP.

Do you have a critique partner or belong to a critique group? Or do you choose to go it alone and not get anyone's comments or feedback? Why?

What constitutes a good critique?

Do you listen to everything a critique partner says or suggests? Why or why not?

Where do you do your critiques? Are they online or do you meet someplace? What kind of place? Why?

Who are your critique partners? Are they published authors? Friends or family? Writers belonging to a national organization like RWA, MWA, ITW?

Are all the critique partners male or female, or do you have a mix of genders? How does that work for you?

How much do you take to critiwue when you get together? Do you read the pages in silent mode or do you read it aloud to the other person or group? Why? What's the benefit of one over the other?

Share what works for you and why.


Iapetus999 August 19, 2009 at 10:49 AM  

That's a lot of questions.
I have a couple channels. First I have a local group that meets a couple times a month. Everyone brings a chapter and we take turns critiquing each one. I also belong to which is a SF/F/H specific online group. I also have a couple of random readers.
The nice thing about the critiques in person is that we actually discuss the piece and get people's viewpoints and ideas. The nice thing about online is that I'm not limited by time and I can say what I want.
A good critique is something that helps the author become a better writer. It's not just praise, because that only helps the ego for a few minutes.

Denise August 19, 2009 at 10:57 AM  

Hehe - sorry for so many questions, but thanks for your input.

I agree with the in-person critiques. They do seem to lend themselves to more discussion and are great for brainstorming sessions.

Love your line "A good critique is something that helps the author become a better writer. It's not just praise, because that only helps the ego for a few minutes."

Thanks for sharing!

Autumn Storm August 19, 2009 at 11:48 AM  

Good morning Denise...

I belong to a writers groups and we have started a couple of critique groups. One that meets at a members house and one that is on line. I also have a couple of beta readers. I like the on line method because it allows me to read at my own pace and mull over what doesn't quite mesh with me....but I also like the personal up close method as well. I'm still a little shy about critiquing someone elses work but I appreciate their honest opinion so by the same token I try to give mine as well. Writing is alot like giving takes alot of nurturing to bring it to full term.

Denise August 19, 2009 at 12:38 PM  

HI Autumn,

"Writing is alot like giving takes alot of nurturing to bring it to full term."

Well said!

I do minimal online critiquing unless I really need some input/feedback, but since my in-person critique sessions are getting fewer and farther in between, I'm thinking more of online might be worth a shot.


J D Webb August 19, 2009 at 12:48 PM  

Hi, Denise. I happen to be the luckiest author around because my critique group is awesome. Been with them for four years and we meet every week. There are five women and one guy - me. Each is a gentle purveyor of specific help. A former creative writing teacher, a librarian, a newspaper editor, an editor of a fortune 500 giant's newsletter, a computer programmer who finds plot problems, and an author of ten well-written romantic suspense novels. I really should say my books are co-authored. I won't but I should. My wish for everyone is to find a group that is accomplished and actually lends assistance.

Iapetus999 August 19, 2009 at 12:53 PM  

BTW I would love to have more online beta readers. Or if you're in the Seattle area, I'm always up for live critique sessions.

Ceri Hebert August 19, 2009 at 4:47 PM  

I belong to a critique group on Yahoo. It's a large group so generally I get a good number of opinions, but I'm generally too impatient to send in each chapter.
I really only submit things once in a while (I like to wait until I have a complete manuscript first). I just submitted part of my first chapter of a finished manuscript and got an excellent, thorough critique.

Sure a little praise is nice, but I'm looking for good, constructive criticism. If it sucks then please tell me, otherwise why bother submitting.

No, I don't listen to everything a critter says. I guess it's all a matter of taste. If someone suggests a change and it doesn't work for me I'll disregard it, but I do take all advice into account.

The critters in my group are a mix of published authors and people who are working to become published. I do have a good friend online who reads my work and both critiques and edits. She's extremely helpful (she's an English teacher, so that helps) but she's also partial to my work. It's good to have someone who doesn't have that emotional connection that a friend of family member would have.

Of course it would be nice to have an in person crit group, but I'm not too close at hand to enough people to get together with, unless I drive a few hours.

Laura Elvebak August 19, 2009 at 5:38 PM  

I wouldn't send any work in until it's gone through both my critique groups. My Tuesday group is all mystery, though one is also writing romance, and most of us belong to the SW chapter of MWA in Houston. Three are multi-published and at present there are 5 women and 3 men. We have been meeting for several years. They are a tough bunch but so perceptive, and they have really taught me so much. I don't think I would be published without them. We bring 10or so pages with copies for everyone. We read aloud and each gives their critique on the main points and writes on the pages.

The second is my Thursday group, which is a mix. The core group is about 5 but we'll sometimes have 15 or so show up. I usually take what I've corrected from the Tuesday night group. We bring not more than 5 pages and someone else reads so we can hear what it sounds like. Otherwise, it's the same as the other group.
Both groups meet every week and I make a point of not missing a meeting unless I'm out of town, which is rare.
We love our work and sometimes we can't see the inconsistencies or flaws that others will pick up. And if it's a group that knows your work, that helps, too.

Charlotte Phillips August 20, 2009 at 9:10 AM  

Hi Denise,

Mark and I have an extensive list of beta readers for our novels. Each offers something different - from the grammar Nazi to the person who wants novels to run like a movie in her head. We love their feedback.

For story structure - especially short stories (a form that is fairly new to us), we belong to two critique groups. Like Dee, I'm not comfortable giving feedback at these sessions, but I want their honest feedback, so I pony up. In general, they are far too kind in verbal feedback, but make up for it in the written comments:-).

I once took a piece that was a total mess because I wanted it fixed and couldn't figure out what was wwrong. It was bad enough that people physically squirmed while trying to find something constructive to say. I finally broke the tension by announcing that I knew it was crap, but didn't know why. Then, received inciteful feedback. Of course, when something is that bad, a group will not agree on what's wrong. I ended up grouping the suggestions and writing two different stories. Names were changed to protect the guilty.

Denise August 20, 2009 at 9:22 AM  

Wow! Lots of good feedback and insight.

I personally don't submit any work unless it has gone through my critique groups.

For those of you who use an online critique group, would you share how you found the group??


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