Wednesday, March 7, 2012

ISWG

Today is the first Wednesday of the month so that means it's time for Alex Cavanaugh's Insecure Writer's Group post.

Ok I know this might sound strange but here is my insecurity: I don't think I'm a very good critique partner. I was invited to be in a picture book crit group which I was thrilled about...until I saw how thorough all these ladies were in their critiques. Line by line they pick out everything, grammar, structure, story arc, characters... Everything! They even leave suggestions on how to fix it. I read everyone's stories and I like most of them. I write, "Great job! Wonderful idea!" I wonder if I'm making a contribution. Sure I find grammar errors and a few awkward constructions here and there. But who am I to tell someone their idea won't work as it is? I don't have any books published yet. The funny thing is I didn't have a problem beta-reading for Jess, but maybe because she is my daughter I felt I could be more brutal with the red slashes throuh her words. Maybe because I am new to the group I feel I have to be nice. I love being a part of it, but I want to bring something useful to the others.

So If you have any suggestions on how to improve my critiques I'd love to hear them! I don't want to let these ladies down. I anxiously await your advicice!

 Kathy :)

10 comments:

Tobi Summers said...

I feel the same way! I critique for a good friend of mine, and she does the same for me. Her critiques are always complex, with suggestions and a well thought-out deconstruction of everything I'd written, and mine are like, "No, that chapter was awesome! Um, here, I caught a grammar mistake."

We both just started new WIPs, and this time I'm making a concerted effort to always have something different to say, something broader than just, "This sentence doesn't work." Because sometimes when I force myself to dig a little deeper, I see some things I glossed over on the first pass. I don't know if that'll work, but it's definitely something I'm paying attention to.

Miranda Hardy said...

Interesting topic. Critiquing is hard for me as I want to encourage people. I always see positive things before the negative ones. I've learned more as I've grown as a writer and something's are now easier for me to pick up on.

Cassie Mae said...

Oh gosh, I feel like this too. A lot of times I'll be so into their story, I forget I'm supposed to be commenting. Also, sometimes I feel like I focus too much on one thing (grammar) and that I'm not giving them enough on pacing, plot, character, voice.

Dude, I hear ya. And sorry I'm not much help, lol.

Nicole Zoltack said...

The more you read, the more comfortable you'll feel with critiquing. Just try to keep in mind what will make the work shine even more.

Kelley said...

I think its important to remember, and to keep emphasizing in your critique, that for many things (character, plot, pacing) it is just your opinion. One out of many. To give your suggestions and share your opinions in a respectable way should always be looked at kindly. That's what I do. I know that some (many in some cases) of my suggestions won't be taken but that doesn't mean it isn't important to share it.

Rosalind Adam said...

When I first joined a crit group I was told that they always use the 'sandwich' method. You start with something positive, move on to some constructive negative and then finish on a positive. Not sure that I always do that now (apologies to writers in my crit group who I forget to give positive comments to) but it was good advice at the time.

Sarah Pearson said...

This is me. i read stuff and I think 'that's great'. Then I read someone else's critique of it and think 'why didn't I think of that?' I know I need to learn to be better at this as I'm going to need some critters of my own soon. I guess it comes with practice.

Rena said...

Can I just say Critiquing Is Hard. I've gone through both ends of the spectrum, from "This is great" to "You need to work on these 8,000 points before this short story is ready for prime time." And I'm not really sure which is better.

I find that the more detailed the critique, the harder it can be to receive, and not because it hurts to have our work skewered, but because sometimes, those detailed critiques didn't "get it." So from a critiquer stand point, I think about all the times I've gotten a bloodied story back, and the thing my critique partner wanted to change is absolutely pivotal for the whole rest of the book, but they just went on and on and on about something that could not be changed. So I'm always worried about that when I give critiques.

Which very nicely leads me to where I am now. When I critique for people, I ask what they are looking for. Some people think critique work is little more than proof reading. Unhelpful, but if that's all they're looking for, then I can do that. If they are concerned that aspects of their novel don't "work" then I can talk to them about that. If they just throw it at me and say "help" that's a different place too. But if you ask what people are after before you dive in, it can be a better guide for both of you.

KarenG said...

Kathy, I've never been in a critique group so it's hard for me to say, but personally, I feel like the more someone can tell me about what they like or suggest changing about my work, the happier I am. If all you did was go through and mark the parts that you really liked, and said why, that would be a helpful critique imho.

BTW I love the look of your blog! It's so crisp and professional-looking.

inluvwithwords said...

I hear ya. This is exactly how I feel. Maybe it's because I'm such an optimist. I always see the good in people (and stories.) Or maybe it's because I don't think analytically. In any case, I always feel like my critique partners are getting the short end of the stick =(