Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Critiques . . .


I'm a member of LDS Storymakers.Our conference starts tomorrow with the kick off being Boot Camp. I've been asked to be an instructor during this session of the conference. I'm looking forward to meeting aspiring writers who want to learn more about the craft.


You may wonder what happens at Boot Camp. Writers bring their pages for hands on instruction and critique. Each instructor has about five or six writers assigned to his/her table. Writers read their pages and under the guidance of a published author, they receive feedback on their work. Boot Camp is helpful because it teaches writers how to give critiques, how to receive critiques, and how to digest information that will improve their manuscript.

How to give critiques . . .
To give helpful critiques takes skill and a lot of tact. It doesn't come naturally to some. I remember when I first started writing and attending a critique group. One lady just blurted out, "I hate your main character." And she didn't just say it once, but many times. When she was finished, I felt pretty beat up and that I would never write again. However, in the same group was a very smart, savvy writer, who helped me realize how I could fix the problem. Those who critique have a responsibility to not only give their honest opinion, but to also help find ways to make the writing better. AND they should always find something good to say. They need to look for not only punctuation and grammar, but also tension, characterization, plot, and setting problems--and give helpful advice.

How to receive critiques . . .
To find out that others find flaws in your masterpiece can be upsetting, especially when you've devoted a great deal of your life to writing. You've put everything into your craft and have sacrificed time away from your family and friends. To hear that there's something wrong with your baby can make you want to throw in the writing towel, stomp off, and think evil thoughts about those who would say your work isn't perfect. BUT if you do that, are you growing? Are you learning what it takes to become a published writer? Sitting through the fire of a critiquing session as they help you fine tune your work is tough, but it is also a proving ground for what lies ahead if you become published, because believe me book reviewers can be lethal. They don't care what you've sacrificed to write your book. All they care about is telling their readers how they honestly feel about a book. Their reputation is on the line. That's the way it should be. When a writer understands that their critique group is helping them build a stronger book, he/she realizes every critique they receive will help them on the path to publication and good reviews.  

How to digest information . . . 
A writer knows where his/her story is heading and what needs to happen by the end of the book. Learning to shift through critiques and glean information that will help you reach that goal is a fine art, but one that every writer needs to develop. Yes, you will receive critiques that you will choose not to use. But before you toss it aside think it over very hard. Look at your story from all sides and see if maybe that suggestion is right. It could mean writing the scene over, or it could even mean rewriting the book, but if it makes your story stronger do it. That's your end goal to write the best story you possibly can. 


How do you feel when someone critiques your hard work? Do you see it as helpful? Do you use every critique? How do you shift through the critiques and find the gems that will make your writing shine?

8 comments:

  1. Looking forward to Storymakers, too. Have fun teaching at Boot Camp!

    Because I know my crit partners (and my hubby) want me to succeed and will be honest, I pay attention to their critiques. But I don't follow everything - I pay attention to whether that suggestion rings true to me. If so, then I'll change it.

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  2. Great points. When I crit, I try to highlight the good stuff too. I don't turn a blind eye to any of the things that need work, but I try to encourage where I can.

    When I don't like something, I make sure to motivate why. Nothing is worse than getting a crit that says: "this is wrong." and that answers: "because it is" when I ask why.

    :-)

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  3. Stacy,
    Please, if you see me at the conference say hi. I'd love to meet you in person!

    You're miles ahead of the game if you know what critique works and what doesn't. Good for you!

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  4. Misha,
    Great point. Knowing why something doesn't work helps a great deal. Could be the critiquer has a personal problem with some point that has nothing to do with your story. It's all a matter of context not only in the story, but in critiquer's view point. :)

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  5. Kathi,
    If I'd known you would be one of the instructors at Boot Camp I would have done it. Oh well, I hope to bump into you at Storymakers. Good luck with boot camp.

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  6. Christina,
    I'm late seeing this. It was great meeting you at the conference. Wish we could have talked longer. I hope you had a great time. It was a wonderful conference.

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  7. I just wanted to say 'thanks' as one of the boot campees at your table for your insight and help. I am mulling over the suggestions given on my MS and I have to say, you were wonderful at helping each of us really 'hear' what we needed to hear to fix the issues in our chapters. Everyone--as far as I could tell-- left feeling encouraged and with a desire to make our stories even better. ;) Thanks so much. I hope you're my instructor next year. :) It was fun to visit with you and I am going to post a version of this on MY blog. Please come visit at:moniquebucheger.blogspot.com.
    Thanks again for your encouragement and kindness. :)

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  8. Monique:
    I'm so glad that you were at my table. You have a great story. I'd love to have you in my group again. Our table was fantastic! So many talented writers!!! Of course, I'll stop by your blog. See you around the blog-o-phere!

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