Friday, January 13, 2012

Critique Groups

Firstly, I'd like to apologize about falling off the face of the earth this week. At Sunday River it was Kid's Week, which meant that I was and am one exhausted instructor. (But, it was an amazing experience, and my kiddos were awesome, so it was totally worth it)

I'm going to need this many energy drinks tomorrow to function like a human being...


Now for the post. I had an interesting learning experience this week, and thankfully, it was writing related...

About a month ago, I'd joined a critique group. We kind of all stumbled through how we wanted to set things up, corresponded through e-mails, and swapped about a chapter a week (or...whatever we could get done, whenever we could get it done).

Round one, I was a bit apprehensive. The person 'in charge' of the group sent me his work, and it was a LOT of telling rather than showing. I wasn't being drawn in, at all. I went through, did some line edits, highlighted paragraphs, said "You're telling me, bring me in..." etc. I tried really, really hard to find tactful ways to tear his work apart.

And then I get his edits back. It was about two-three sentences of 'I really like the plot set up here, I only have one suggestion'. I balked. There were no line edits, no "I'm lost here" "Strengthen this section". Nothing. Just two or three sentences that didn't really say anything. I had worked sooo hard on his story. And what did I get in return? Two sentences? Really, man??

Still, we continued along, I found myself repeating my edits over and over, as though he wasn't forward editing, as though...he wasn't trying. I'd work really hard on his, I'd get back three-four sentences.

This last round, he sent his work (another paragraph), and I sent mine, which started doing line edits, but (after a really long day with a million kids) I had to stop. I could no longer continue reading his story. I finished reading (no longer line editing), and did what he'd been sending to me, thinking it'd be okay, "There's still a lot of telling here, it's really hard for me to get through this because as a reader, I'm not being drawn in, at all."

The following day, I received and e-mail ending our correspondence.

I was a little sad, but after I stepped away from it for a second, I was really okay with it. Why? Because I hadn't getting the feedback from him that I'd hoped for. I was looking for more in-depth criticism than he was willing to offer, and I feel that he, too, may have been looking for something else out of the group, out of me.

The truth:
You're allowed to be in more than one group. You'll find people you like, and people you don't. The good news is, with mine I was still able to secure a reader, whose novel seems fantastic thus far, and also gives amazing feedback, so, I'm incredibly grateful for that. She's not afraid to tell me something is weak, what needs work, where I'm losing her.


So, my advice for the day:
Be aware of what you want out of critique groups. Do you really want people to tell you what they think, or are you just trying to see if your story makes sense? If you're not getting what you want, find a new group.

8 comments:

  1. A hard lesson to learn but a good one. Great advice! And I am glad you ended up with a good critique partner.

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  2. @Kritsa, thank you. It was a weird lesson, but I'm glad I learned it. Especially since it was my first formal critique group.

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  3. How good your critique partners are can make ALL THE DIFFERENCE in the world. It really is worth it to keep trying to find the right one until you do! Best of luck with the new CP. I hope it works out much better!

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  4. I have given you an award on my blog. Stop by to claim it.

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  5. @Peggy, That is definitly something I'm figuring out! Thanks for the wishes! Hope your writing is rocking, too!

    @Krista, Thanks bunches!

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  6. Keep looking Lynne! It's a hard lesson but you handled it far more gracefully than most. It IS okay to try out several critique groups before you stumble on the right one. Just like anything else in life, shop around & don't settle! Good luck & feel free to come & have a look around Ladies Who Critique to find your next CP/ group.

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  7. @Laura, Thank you! I will definitely have to look into this!

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Please know that if you comment and I don't respond, it's not because I don't love you. It's because I don't have wifi, but I do have a bad memory.

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