Critique Groups, by Christopher Hoare; author of the fantasy “Rast”.
All day blog presentation in four parts. Look for our 12pm Readers Sales Table and come back to find out which book will be our featured 99cent ebook. I will also be pointing everyone who comments during the workshop to a location where they can download a free copy of my novella “Gisel Matah and the Slave Ship”, which is also the workshop exercise. (See comments for explanation.)
Are you perfect?
Not as perfect as me, I bet. LOL And yet I cannot turn out my best work without having other writers read and critique my writing. The peer review is always an essential step before a piece of fiction or non-fiction reaches its readers. Scientific and medical journals require it and so should every publisher.
The best system for a critique group is one where everyone is both submitter and reviewer—and to gain the most benefit from the experience everyone must give as good as they get. Impartial, thoughtful, and comprehensive critiques are what we should look for—and those are also what we should give. In fact, a writer can often learn more from critiquing someone else’s writing than from having his or her own work critiqued. I cannot count how many times I’ve commented on something less than perfect in someone else’s work...and then thought. “Oh, I’ve done that.”
I guess it’s just human to cover up the problems when they appear in one’s own masterpiece and only see them in someone else’s. I’m focussing on fiction critiques here, because I believe our emotions are stronger over our inventions than over our reasoned presentations. And do not discount the power of emotion when it’s time to open up and consider what others have told you.
The first reaction is probably, “What idiots! Don’t they see what I’m doing here?” It helps a lot when you have more than one critiquer because the criticism you can ignore when one says it is immeasurably stronger when several do. One person could be reporting only a personal bias, but two or three must be seeing your personal bias.
So go ahead and swear a bit when you receive a harsh crit—stomp about and kick over the dog’s water dish, but then come back to reread it carefully and see what is being said. In all probability it’s not a piece of withering contempt for your writing...it’s only something you missed or didn’t account for when you wrote it. Usually it doesn’t take a whole rewrite to correct. Sometimes a single word or phrase change can put a whole different meaning on a sentence.
One member of my local face-to-face novel group had a scene where the egotistical husband was taken for a mystery tour by his normally pliant wife. Author meant his reactions to show his pleasant surprise at her discovery, but I only saw him being defensive about losing the lead. (No, I wasn’t the only one to take it that way) We discussed it and decided...what if he says this with a smile? Suddenly we see his face and as in a conversation, we sense his attitude—which the bare words didn’t show. The words that mean one thing to you as you set them down can come to mean something else in a reader’s perception. The message was sent from your mindset but was deciphered by a different mindset.
Next post at 11:00EST