Thursday, November 12, 2009

Thoughts on Writing – Part Two

Today I want to share three interesting posts about Critique Groups. Now, we all know that having another person or persons read your writing before you send it out into the world is essential, right? We know this, and yet, it seems to be so hard to find the right people or the right combination or the right personalities…Oy!

Tara McClendon recently had a great post on her blog about this, and about what type of group one should be looking for. I love her distinction between a cheerleading group and a critique group. I have definitely met those people who are looking for a cheerleader rather than a critique.

But then, sometimes even when you are ready for a true critique, it is hard to find the right group or partner. You have to find someone who "gets" your writing (style, genre, voice, etc.) and who can give you helpful information in the critique. You have to find someone who is available for critique on the same or a similar schedule as you. It can really be overwhelming! Natalie Whipple recently posted some great tips on finding a critique group, and I think her tips on what to look for in a crit partner are spot-on.

What I have found amazing (although I probably shouldn't have been surprised by it), is how diverse opinions really are. I have an online critique group, and I was shocked that one member just really didn't like my main character, Mitch. He said he found the best friend, Jen, much more interesting. But then I had other members telling me they love Mitch. So, what to do?

Well, Tara McClendon had another great post on what to do when you get a critique. She had some great "What if?" questions to ask yourself after a critique. She also emphasizes looking at the comments objectively, which can sometimes take a day or so of "cooling off" to accomplish.

What I think is important to note is that you can learn something from just about every critique. Even if you disagree with the comments. A couple of great things can happen if you disagree with the comments a critique partner makes.

  1. You can gain renewed confidence in what you've written. Take my example above. I listened to what that one member said about Mitch, and I looked at Mitch again as a character and why he was the way he was. And I decided that I was happy with Mitch as he was, and that he needed to be that way for the story to work. I actually gained confidence in my character because the critique questioned him.


  2. You can disagree with the specific comment, but realize that something in your manuscript made the reader feel that way and perhaps make a different change that improves your manuscript. I had a critique once that said the reader felt that two of my characters were too similar – they seemed like the same person. Well, I super-duper disagreed with that! LOL. But, there had to be a reason that person felt that way, so I went back and looked deeper at the characterization of both and also scenes where they were together. I realized that while in my head I had been writing from one POV, in reality, I had slipped a little into another. When I fixed that, my story and my characters were able to shine through more clearly.


So, what kinds of "AHA" moments have you had from critiques? Have you ever felt you learned from a critique you disagreed with?


  1. What a thorough post! Well written and thought provoking.

  2. Thanks, Terry (or do you prefer Terry Lynn?)! Congrats again on your sale to 4RV! Did you get that from the Muse Conference? So exciting!

  3. I've learned a lot from crit partners, I've just recently joined a group of five other ladies, and I'm really excited to get feedback from them.

    I also learn a lot by critiquing other's work. Great post :)

  4. great reminder - I love my critique group. yay! some new linky dinks to check out! Thanks.

  5. Hey Larissa. I've facilitated a face-to-face critique group for nearly 10 years. It's funny, the writers that are just looking for a cheerleader don't stick around our group very long, although they do seem to resurface every time they complete a new project.

    That said, we do have a certain aspect of cheerleading, I think every group has to. While we don't tell each other that everything we've written is brilliant and perfect, we do point out the validity of good writing and encourage each other to make our work the best it can be. There are other ways we 'cheer' each other on, but I think you get it what I'm trying to say.

    I've certainly had AHA moments from many critiques, but I think my most common one is when a have an idea in my head for a modivation or character trait but the group points out that I failed to put it on paper for the reader. Many times I've sat through a critique wondering why they aren't getting it, only to see that what I intended to add never made it into the draft. Aha!

  6. Thanks Kristi and Shelli!

    Matt - Thanks for stopping by! That is funny that those people come back when they finish a new piece. I wonder if it is the critique they don't like, or if they are just "takers" and don't want to take their time to give back.

    You made an excellent point that there does need to be some cheerleading in every group. I definitely try to pepper my comments with positives, and I appreciate the same. It's always easier to hear a criticism when it is sandwiched by "Great dialogue!" or "Funny!"

    There is a recent post on the blueboards about someone being depressed by their editor letter. Through the comments, it becomes clear that the letter is mostly "work on this, change this" comments, without much (if any) positive. I can imagine that is tough to take, even if s/he is getting the letter because his/her book is being published.

    Thanks for your comments, everyone!