Thursday, March 8, 2012

Take Advantage of Critiques! by DL Larson

Getting back into a routine after being gone awhile is a challenge for me. Catching up on mail, e-mail, etc. overwhelms me and I procrastinate more than I should. I did check my email, finally, and discovered I had several good notes to tend to and not just jokes and better pass it on notices. I received a few critiques on my unpubbed manuscripts. As usual, it was eye-opening and rewarding, frustrating and humbling at the same time.

No manuscript is perfect, I know that, so do you! Yet, we want to hear only the good things we acomplished in our writing, and not so much on what needs work. I learned a long time ago from a professor I did not like, that pointing out the weak spots is a well needed knock-up-side the head. Too much glowing words leaves no room for improvement. And I sure want to keep improving my skill as a writer.

Don't get me wrong, I love it when someone enjoys my work. I also want to know where the reader might get bogged down because I didn't explain the setting, plot, character's actions, etc. as I should have. Now is not the time to be stubborn and say I wrote it that way ... because ... because it's what the characters wanted, or I want to add to the tension, the mystery, the whatever! If someone took the time to critique your work, please, please, take the time to consider their opinion and take a good hard look at what they are saying about your writing. Keep in mind a critiquer has no purpose to harm you, only to enlighten you to tend to a problem they discovered.

My advise is to take advantage of every tidbit a critique has to offer. Use a critical eye as you examine the hot spot, see it for what it is, and then change it to what it should be.

I've had many critiques over the years, most were okay, some very enlightening and I still appreciate being set in the right direction. Only once did I encounter a horrific critique and that was years ago. I learned from the advice, yes, I also learned what the ring of vindictiveness sounded like and realized some people are simply unhappy doing what they were doing. That too was a growing experience.

If you have not had your work critiqued, I encourage you to do so. Find a writers group, or enter a contest and pay someone to point out the good/bad parts of your manuscript. The important thing is to have someone unbiased examine your work.

If you have had your work critiqued, share your experience with us!

Til next time ~

DL Larson


Debra St. John said...

One of the things I love best about my RWA group is that it's a critiquing chapter. Every month we have three critiques (Two at one meeting, one at another.) To me, these are the most valuable parts of the meeting. Even when it's not my manuscript being critiqued, I learn so much.

The first thing I ever brought to be critiqued eventually turned out to be my debut novel. The best piece of advice I got was they told me I'd started in the wrong place. What started as the closing line of the chapter, became the opening line of the book in a revised version and remains that way in the published version: "She had once carried this man's baby."

Deb Larson said...

Sounds like a great experience. And yes, RWA meetings are great for critiquing on all levels. I highly recommend them as well.
Thanks for sharing ~
DL Larson

Morgan Mandel said...

My first critique by Chicago-North RWA enlightened me that I do not have to describe every little detail that happened in my character's life, but let them be understood. Also, I learned to delete almost all of my adverbs and some adjectives.

Very helpful.

Morgan Mandel

Deb Larson said...

I just gave a writer's talk to a class of 4th graders and told them the evils of adverbs and adjectives. I wish I could talk to a group of teachers who insist kids pepper their sentences with them. It would save future writers a lot of heartache!
Thanks for sharing ~
DL Larson