Thursday, September 8, 2011

WHAT GOOD IS A "SILENT" CRITIQUE?

Finally, a cool down here in Louisiana!! Yippee, however it will be ending almost as quickly as it got here. It’s been in the low to mid 80’s for the last week, due to tropical storm Lee. We received 4 days straight of down pours but it was worth it. The weather is gorgeous here right now but by Monday, reality comes back to bite us and it will be back in the 90’s. I know all you northern bloggers say you would trade weather and trust me, if that were possible, I’d hit that “transfer” button right now. But since it’s not, I’m just going to sit back and enjoy the next few days and then I’ll get back to griping about the hot.

Ok, back to the business of writing. If you are a serious writer, than you’ve read all the research that tells us to join a critique group or two. I do strongly agree with this theory. I belong to two of them and at one time belonged to three.

Not only do critique groups get your work out there, they give you confirmation that either you can do this or you can’t. If you have a strong enough drive and find that you enjoy it as much as you thought you would, then a critique group will keep you writing and studying your craft. You can learn so very much if you are in a good group. You also can meet all kinds of wonderful writing peeps.

But how do you find one and how do you find a good one? What qualifies as a good group?

To find a critique group all you really have to do is search the internet. There are tons of organizations that offer you help on finding a group. Also, if you take any kind of writing course or go to a writer’s workshop, they can also direct you in the right path.
To find a good critique group, you first need to define what type of group you are looking for. What would benefit you the most?

1.       A group where all the members are buds and just write for the fun of it?
2.       A group filled with people that don’t want to hurt each other’s feelings therefore, they tend to love everything everyone writes?
3.       A group where the writers are serious about their craft and believe in honesty when critiquing but also believe in doing it tactfully? They truly want to help themselves as well as others.
4.       A group that holds nothing back and is brutally honest. They don’t care whose feelings they hurt as long as they get their point across? They think their word is gold.

To be honest, a group that combined all four of those criteria would probably be perfect! However, that would be quite hard to come by.  

I’ve been in the No. 4 group where they were brutally honest. So much so that they didn’t care how they came across or who they crushed. They just said it like they saw it and gave the writer absolutely no hope for their story. I have to admit, I was one of those crushed writers. I did give them a piece of my mind and told them good critiquing did not need to be hurtful; it should always be done tactfully and still give the writer some hope. They didn’t care. I have to admit that after being crushed and very upset for a few days, the critiquers’ words did make me want to try even harder. His words made me determined to prove him wrong. However, I have never sent in another story. I have since been published, however.

One of my groups at present, although I haven’t had time to participate in a couple of months, falls in a little bit of No. 1 and a lot of No. 3. I have been so fortunate to have found them and I have truly learned a ton from all of them.

What if you were in a group where one member fit into the No. 2 category? This member never says a thing about the other member’s manuscripts and very rarely makes a single suggestion. Just says, “Good story, good luck,” basically. Now I ask you, how does that help? My answer to that is “it absolutely does not help. It’s nice to hear, but when that’s all they ever give, then it ultimately means nothing.”  In fact, after awhile, it would make me not want to say a single thing about their manuscript either. That kind of critiquing shows me that member is not serious about helping any of the other members.

So my question to you is, what would you do about that member? Would you speak up to the team lead and let them know how you feel in hopes that that member would be replaced with someone who is serious about critiquing? Why have a member who is not beneficial to the group? Or would you just remain quiet and not let it bother you? And most importantly, how would you describe your own critiquing skills?

Oh and you might be interested in checking out Ruth Schiffmann's blog. She is giving out some great giveaways. Click on the link to take a peek:
http://outonalimbshywritergoessocial.blogspot.com/2011/09/burried-treasure-book-giveaway.html?showComment=1315493342119#c3008355172513674782

9 comments:

  1. We've been getting hit by the remains of Lee up here in Maryland and Virginia too, and it has NOT been fun. I figure I might feel like smiling again one day, when the sun is out again.

    Anyway, number 3 sounds the best to me, but I have a feeling that might be the rarest critique group of them all. I've thought about joining a critique group but haven't had the time to find one. This makes me think twice. I certainly could use it...

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  2. Hi Allyn! I've been part of a group for about five years now, and I think we've been #1, #2 & #3 at times as we've evolved. We started out as just a bunch of friends who loved to write. The group was really all about just staying motivated to write. Over time, we've all become more serious about the craft and have tried to morph into more of a critique group. But it's been rough. There have never been any brutal critiques so that's a plus.
    I think critiquing is a hard thing to learn. You really have to be an analytical thinker. I would allow the "quiet" member to remain in the group. Once they learn how to give feedback, they may have a lot to offer.

    And thanks so much for linking to my contest!!

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  3. Very interesting break-down of critique groups.

    I've never been in a formal group. The one time I tried to join one, they wouldn't take me because I was too experienced. Hmm... Happily, I have many writers, editors, and avid readers among my family and long-time friends, so they've done a good job of beta-reading so far. I'm sure I'll try a critique group at some point.

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  4. Jonathan,
    You should definitely look into joining a critique group. But try to find one that is flexible if you don't have that much time to devote to it. One of mine, we submit a story once a month and the other weeks we spend critiquing each others stories so it really doesnt take that much time. And most times well worth the effort. Goodluck!

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  5. Inluvwithwords,
    You are so right, learning the craft of critiquing is a job in itself. It took me quite awhile before I felt I even knew enough to really give my opinion. However, the person I was referring to who is basically a "silent" critiquer has been doing this longer than me, a published author, and so I don't think her lack of knowledge is the problem. Thanks for your input!

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  6. Anne,
    A critique group wouldnt let you join because you were too experienced!!! That is really weird. I would think they would have really valued you as a member in their group. Go figure. Guess that just showed they werent the right group for you to join at the time. But don't let that stop you from trying again once you feel the need. A good group is really worth it for everyone involved.

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  7. I agree, Allyn, a good critique doesn't have to be hurtful and has to give hope in improvements.

    @ Anne: Can't believe they'd turned down someone with more experience. To me, more experience = more helpful contributions to my ms ... (Not that I'd exploit you like that okay? hehehe)

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  8. Allyn-

    Over the years I have been involved with groups similar to just about every description you've posted above. Although, I admit, I love the "ruthless" ones (because I'm good at assessing what I want to change and not easily offended or crushed).

    But I am so glad you posted about the importance of good Critiques. We're launching Rate Your Story next month and it's intended to help authors who need an outside opinion on their story get one for free, from a professional.

    Thanks!

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  9. Hey Allyn! I nominated you for an award over on my blog today.

    http://outonalimbshywritergoessocial.blogspot.com

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