Friday, June 10, 2011

Can You Give as Good as You Get?

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.)

Part One:

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’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


Christopher Hoare said...

Everyone who comments or visits is welcomed to go to my website
to look around and download a free novella, “Gisel Matah and the Slave Ship”. Gisel is the protagonist of my Iskander series novels, a tough and no nonsense security officer of a group of moderns stranded in an alternate 17th century Earth. She’s just 19 here, and on the way to becoming ‘the Wildcat’ that nobody messes with.

This freebie also constitutes the exercise for this workshop, because in the rush to finish the novella while my web person was preparing the new site, I collected very few critiques from my writing group. SO... you are all invited to vet the novella for comments a critique group would have made. You can direct your critiques to me at under the title ‘workshop crit’ because there will be a new blog here by the time you’ve looked at some of the novella.

Nan D Arnold said...

Any writer without a critique partner (or group) swims in perilous waters. Others are not so close to the story, and as your blog example indicates can visualize and "hear" or *not* "hear" what the writer aimed for but missed. And, yes, we all love the positive feedback most. Ha! That's why I'm mighty glad I hooked up with MIU writer Cheryl Dale sometime back. Her book "The Man in the Water comes out next Spring. A wonderful romantic suspense.

Joylene Nowell Butler said...

Sir Hoare, (yes, I've decided to knight you) I'm here to say that your critique style is tough, insightful, and oh-so-helpful. Wouldn't be here without you.

Someone should organize a Chris and his critiquers retreat.

Lisa Forget said...

Thank you for your post Chris!

I've been part of an online writing group for over a year and with the help and encouragement from the members of my group, I know I've grown as a writer.

I'll keep coming back here today to check out the next installments of your workshop.