Friday, October 15, 2010

Adventures in Critiquing

A few weeks ago I joined Critique Circle, an online critique group. I also found a local critque group and have attended two of their meetings. This has been a big step, though not for the reason I thought it would be. I knew that reading my work in front of people, even friendly people, would be a bit hard for mem but I managed it in the end. No, the problem turned out to be critiquing other people. I did everything I was supposed to on Critique Circle: I read all the FAQs, the Newbie page, I looked up archived critiques to see how others did it. The way Critique Circle works, you have to critique other stories in order to earn credits to put up your own stuff. So after a week or two of research, I finally dived in and critiqued one of the short stories. I can say two things about my critique: 1) it was honest and 2) it was nicely phrased -- no rudeness. Exactly what the guidelines said it should be. And yet I went around very troubled afterwards. Perhaps the person who put up the story hadn't expected or wanted honesty. Perhaps I had stopped someone's writing in their tracks or persuaded the person to toss the story. I didn't like the thought that I might have disturbed someone's confidence in their own writing. And yet, secretly, I was kind of proud of my critique. I like critiquing. I have definite opinions about certain things, and I like to express them.
So it was as a very conflicted person that I went to my critique group and proceeded to make a rookie error -- reading them a scene I had revised in a fury and hadn't really re-read. They didn't hate it, but they pointed out some problems, and, being new in the group, (this was only the second thing I'd read) I came away thinking I must have looked like someone who couldn't write at all. Believe me, I saw the irony in all this.
When I'm in doubt or turmoil I try to fall back on what I call the Two-Day Rule. Wait two days before making a decision about this. Give yourself some perspective, let your emotions fade. (This sounds wise, but it also allows two days of pure nobody-loves-me-think-I'll-eat-some-worms wallowing.) So sure enough, Monday came and I got a little perspective and began to re-structure my ruined scene. And I got an message on Critique Circle from the person who wrote the story, thanking me for giving her an honest critique! I promptly and boldly then went out and critiqued two more stories and submitted one of my own (won't get any feedback on it for a week or so.) So I might get the hang of this yet. Or I might be repeating the two-day rule to myself again one of these days.
Anywaym as a Giant of Critiquing, I am now my proclaiming my official disapproval of two things:
The one-sentence paragraph.
The. One. Word. Sentence.
Maybe I'll do a post about them one of these days...after I've gone back over my own writing to edit out all the times I've done it myself.

1 comment:

Lemur said...

Critiquing can be hard and getting criticism also, but hang in there. Criticism (if it's done with honesty and kindness only makes us better writers in the end.

The Critique Circle sounds interesting. Thanks for offering the link!

The CRITTER Project and Naked Without a Pen