Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Tell It Like It Is

Carousel in Strasbourg, France

A critique from a fellow writer is an invaluable tool in helping to whip a story into a marketable piece. When I submit my work to my online writers group (writersandcritters), I expect to find out what is wrong with my story and also what is right.

I submit with the thought in mind that my fellow writers will give me a fair and honest opinion. When the crits start flowing in, I know that I'm going to get as many, or more, negatives than positives.

Does that bother me? Only a little. Nobody likes to hear negative statements about the precious words they've written. Hey, we're all human! But what good is a critique that doesn't show us what needs to be fixed? Have the right attitude here and you'll reap benefits, one of which will be that your writing is bound to improve. Another is that your story will have a better chance of being published.

Do I become defensive? No.  What earthly good will it do to get your hackles up? Who do you hurt but yourself? Back down a bit and absorb the help the critiquer is handing to you. Accept it gratefully. These critters are here to help you make your work the very best it can be. Don't forget that when you submit your work for critique, you're looking for the problems with the story. If it bothers you a lot, leave it alone for a few hours or a day, then go back and read it again when you're calmer.

Do I use the suggestions given to me? Some, but not all. I do change a great many of the areas that the critters point out to me as being weak or the wording. I don't do it only because they said so. I do it if and when I agree with them that the change will make the story stronger and more readable. Often, I marvel at a simple reversal or omission or addition that puts a whole new light on a section. Why did they see it and I didn't? I usually end up being grateful for the help.

When I am the critiquer, should I be honest? Yes, by all means, give your honest opinion. Tell the writer what you like but also point out the trouble spots. You can be honest without being cruel. If there is an area that is very poorly written, pinpoint it and give suggestions for fixing it. I usually add something in the initial paragraph of my critique about this being my opinion and end by telling the writer Take what you can use.

So, what does the carousel above have to do with all this? I used it because it is a happy memory picture and also because it goes round and round and gets nowhere. Value the critiques you receive, revise and rewrite your story, and send it to an editor. Don't let it ride the carousel going nowhere.


1 comment:

  1. You have to have a hard shell to be a writer and have your work critiqued. I work with a large group from all over the USA, on a loop. All different genre's of writing. It's amazing how much you can learn by critiquing another person's work and in turn having your work critiqued. I didn't know that I'd been writing the wrong way for all these years, that I needed a deep POV. Well, happily I don't. That's just one style of writing, but it's very popular today. Do your own kind of writing, create your own style and accept people critiques and thank them, and learn from them. But don't let it stop you from being the best you can be at what you do in your own way. :)