Good critique – the opinion of readers and other writers whom you trust – is vital to writers who want to improve their craft. Critique helps a writer make that piece of writing they just birthed, even better, and therefore increasing the odds of publication.
However, critiquing another writer’s work is a delicate, potentially hazardous proposition (to friendships and or family relationships) if you forget a few golden rules. I’ve seen writers receiving critique, drop into despair, eyes water, some even storm out of critique groups and never come back. That serves no one. Keep in mind that often writers tie their entire sense of self worth to their writing. A critique can seem like criticism if not handled carefully. In my beginning years critiques were hard for my thin skin to take. These days a critique is just part of the work, a necessary part, and I’m happy to edit, cut and rewrite to make my work what I want it to be. In other words, I now have thick scaly alligator skin.
Conversely, I’ve seen writers who want ONLY praise, who will not and do not read the craft books, understand the art of writing, and have no intention of doing so. To protect yourself, your time and energy keep this golden rule; DO NOT WASTE YOUR TIME AND ENERGY on any writer who is not working on their writing as hard as you do, or more so.
No one learns anything if you are too kind, not brave enough, and your feedback is done hastily and is not helpful.
In critiquing, remember these golden rules;
- Critique the writing, not the writer.
- ONLY work with writers who want honest feedback that will genuinely help them improve their work.
- Take time and make an effort so you can offer a critique that is thoughtful and helpful; otherwise, just respectfully decline to do a critique for them.
- Put yourself in the critique receiver’s shoes. EMPATHY is key here.
- Always be brave enough to tell them the truth, in the kindest way possible.
- Take time to consider your feedback and how it may be received, then hopefully both parties come out unscathed, wiser and with mutual respect.
And for those receiving critique;
Not letting writing critiques wound you is easy to say. It necessitates a change of perception and a ton of practice to earn my kind of alligator skin. Constantly remember; your writing is not a reflection of your value as a human being. Keep reminding yourself that a critique is an opportunity for evolution. Keep reiterating to yourself; to become a better, stronger writer will take growing pains, as does all transformation. I remind myself of what Hemingway said, “It’s none of their business that you have to learn how to write. Let them think you were born that way.” Then I take every opportunity, including receiving critiques, to become better at my craft.
Bottom line, it’s your work, your words, your story. Don’t let anyone take that away from you.
In June 2018, I decided to scale back on activities that added to stress, you know that ‘One more thing to do today’ kind, and other energy draining commitments that kept me from my writing projects. During those months I also resigned from two committees that took my time in ways that were not creative, and then signed onto a board, Epic Writers Group, where I can be an active participant in the creative writing community. It’s CRITICAL to all of us to assess what makes us happy, what adds stress, or what makes us sick, and then do a course correction. I had always done this in my annual business review of my goals and aspirations, but am very guilty of not doing this in my private and or writing life. So KUDOS to me for doing some long overdue adulting. Oh, and that’s another VERY important aspect of this reassessing, realigning and re-imaging of life goals, giving YOURSELF a pat on the back.
This month I feel re-energized and recommited, and will get back to my blogging about writing, the writer’s life and whatever else strikes my fancy, but for now, THANK YOU for hanging in with me as a follower. As a gift I’d like you to receive this updated 2019 booklet, titled 17 Blogging & Social Media Tips for Writers, just click here to download.
MEANWHILE, keep writing, keep submitting, and of course keep reading other writer’s work. And local writers, there’s a #writing contest at EPIC GROUP WRITERS in Edmonds Washington that is open to all. Check it out via the below information. Good luck.
** Attention Writers in Washington State **
You are invited to enter your prose and/or poetry
EPIC Group Writers Writing Contest
~ Make us laugh, cry, and think ~
** EPIC Writing Contest is now open **
Welcoming entries in poetry and prose
Friday, February 1 through Friday, April 5
Adult and Student (grades 8-12) categories.
Cash awards for 1st and 2nd Place Winners.
Student Winners’ school libraries also receive a cash prize.
Publication on www.epicgroupwriters.com
Submission dates: Friday, February 1 through Friday, April 5, 2019
Submission fees: EPIC Members (adults): $10.00 per submission
Non-members (adults): $15.00 per submission (Not a member? Click here!
Students (grades 8-12): FREE
CLICK HERE TO SUBMIT
A public reading and reception will be held at the Edmonds Library on May 16, 2019
It’s vital that we, as storytellers, understand what ALL our characters (major and minor) want and need. If you have a cast of passionate characters, passionate about willy-nilly things, a story can get befuddling and difficult. Unless their passion circles the same topic the story wanders off in too many directions and then a reader gets lost.
For example, I recently read a manuscript wherein one character was passionate about rebuilding old cars, another passionate about remodeling kitchens, and a third passionate about going to day spas. Okay, interesting. Unfortunately these three passions never intersected in the story. I suggested to the writer that if all three could meet as a result of vintage cars, remodeling, or at a day spa, then they could bond over that single shared passion, the crime could have something to do with that, and so on. But instead the reader was sent in three different directions, down three separate roads only to wonder why and then quickly get tired of the story.
When I realized that the cast of characters in my upcoming novel, all of whom are holocaust survivors, all had the same needs (safety, community, nourishment, etc.) I had to write them with conflicting wants or the story would be boring (remember, wants and needs are VERY different) – some want to remember while others will do anything to forget. Some seek justice while others have lost hope in the jurisdiction of this world. Some seek the truth while others see only lies – and so on. These conflicting desires surrounding the same topic (the holocaust/concentration camp survival) create conflict no matter what else is happening. That tension filled topic is at the core of my story and keeps the spokes of my story-wheel spinning all in the same direction.
So remember, know the wants and needs of your characters and ALWAYS create conflict on every page.