Writer on a Horse
And a Dog

The world looks better from the back of a horse and the roads of life are easier with a good dog beside you.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Critique This

Critiquing groups are like friendships, you get better returns if you put all you have into them. When you join a critiquing group, don’t expect seasoned writers to brag on your manuscript and tell you not to change a single punctuation mark. HA! You have family members to boost your ego with those comments. Be prepared to rework, rewrite, and resubmit you manuscript. In my critiquing group, I consider a general discussion about a minor character or scene as positive feedback. I’ve never submitted a manuscript to the group and everyone loved it. I remember how apprehensive I was the first meeting with my critiquing group. They only critiqued two pages of chapter one and comments bouncing around the table made me wonder if I need to be in a critiquing group. On the drive home, I decided I was a terrible writer and should pack all my stories away. The next day I looked at all the comments, picked the ones that fit what I wanted the story to say and rewrote the first chapter. In other words, I got over my hurt feels because this is what I want to do, WRITE. Now I can hardly wait to get everyone’s opinion on my story.

Question # 1
I’ve recently joined a writer’s critique group and I don’t really know what I expected but the negative feedback wasn’t it. They hammered me with comments like, you have a POV issues, you’re telling not showing, your characters are flat and you have no plot. I feel so discouraged. Am I being over-sensitive or are they being mean?

I would say it’s probably a little of both. You are new to the critiquing process and the negative remarks hurt. I’m sure your group is trying to help you correct problems with your manuscript but they are forgetting to give you positive impute too. Don’t give up on them just yet. At you next meeting, be prepared to ask direct questions on how you can fix your POV, ask if any of them could recommend a book on showing not telling, and ask if they will help you with a character sketch so you can round out your characters. New writer’s egos are like the hands of a music student playing the guitar for the first time or the hands of a gardener in the spring, they are soft and easily bruised. If you continue, you will get tough and like the calluses on the guitarist’s fingers and on the gardener’s hands, you’ll be able to get pass the hurt and fix the problems in your story.
I would like to add that when a new member joins your group, remember how you felt and be the first to give encouragement to soften the negative feedback.

Question #2
My group continues to tell me I’m telling not showing, I wish they would tell me how to show.

The members of your group can’t write your story. They can show examples of how they might show a certain scene or paragraph but it’s your story and you need to tell it in your voice. I’ve listed several books that should help you with the showing instead of telling problem.

1. Writing Fiction for Children by Judy K. Morris
2. Picture Writing by Anastasia Suen
3. Word Painting by Rebecca McClanahan
4. The ABC’s of Writing for Children by Elizabeth Koehler-Pentacoff
5. The Giblin Guild to Writing Children’s Books by James Cross Giblin
6. Creating Characters, How to Build Story People by Dwight V. Swain
7. The Everything Guide to Writing Children’s Books by Lesley Bolton
8. The complete series of Write Great Fiction
A. Description and Setting by Ron Roxelle
B. Characters, Emotion & Viewpoint by Nancy Kress
C. Dialogue by Gloria Kempton
D. Plot & Structure by James Scott Bell

Question 3:
How much time should I expect a critiquing group to take out of my schedule each week? I work and I don’t want to take away from my writing.

I learn from every critique I do and every critique that other members in my group give, it does take time, but I consider the time well spent building a valuable information database and relationships with other writers. The decision to join a critiquing group shouldn’t be a spur of the moment thing. Do not waste your time or the other members of the group’s time by popping in for a couple of meeting then leave after you get your manuscript critiqued.

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