Critiquing

I found something to share!

I’ve been off the deep end lately. I haven’t put my hand to that fantastic thing that is made from a tree. (I’m sorry Mr. Tree) that is known as paper. My house sucks the literary out of me.

Anyway! I was looking on twitter, because I actually have one of those now. (I promise that I am not that person who writes every little thing they are doing throughout the day). I usually post something I think is interesting about writing. Albeit, not very often, but just the same it is important…to me.

The thing I am sharing today is an article that I found through twitter.

This article (from Writer’s Digest) in question is about critiques. I thought the articles was really interesting because many new comers to the writing world aren’t really sure about what they are supposed to say or do, which is why many need practice. If you read the article it shows you what you expect may not be what you get.

Check it out here: http://www.writersdigest.com/editor-blogs/guide-to-literary-agents/how-to-critique-friends-writing

Writing is the life and soul of a writer. Many say that if you can live without writing, then maybe this profession, this lifestyle, isn’t for you. And sometimes I agree, for the most part. I could go days, even months without writing, but that doesn’t mean I’m not dreaming up a new scenario or story. Although, getting it down to paper is what differentiates you and me from any other person. Putting that dream, that hope, despair or insanity is what separates the writers from the dreamers. We’re actually doing something.

But I digress.

My point is that this article talks about critiques. Now, when you meet other writers who have written longer than you have it’s perfectly natural to want to impress or give as much as they do. But be honest. If you’re are not good at critiquing, then ask the other person what they expect or would like to hear from you. It always helps to see what concerns the other person.

This article points out the key word in relationships between writers: Reciprocity. I fully agree with this idea. Don’t give me this couple of sentences long thing saying “I really liked your story. You should work on your ending though, I didn’t like it much.”

Excuse me?!

What did you not like? Why not? Were my characters inconsistent? Ending unbelieveable? Too cliche? Too out of place?

What do you want from my soul?!

You just gave me air. You’re not giving me anything. You are being vague and open-ended, and where is your detail? Tell me exactly what you love about my work, what you hate it, and why? How is it that so difficult?

But it is, for those who don’t know what they’re doing. For a long time things like this were all that I could write when in class. I get it; it’s difficult to be specific, to tear someone else’s work apart. But that’s what they want. They want to know what you, as the reader, took from the work. Don’t tell me what you WANT to see, hear, or envision. Tell me what you were led to believe based on my writing. What did I convey, according to your interpretation of the piece. Tell me what I showed you, and then say what sucked about it, if possible.

Many think that writers don’t want this kind of criticism. Well, let me tell you something. If they can’t take criticism, then they are not a real writer. I’ve learned to thrive on constructive criticism. I need to know what you thought, what you heard, what you felt when you read in those pages that I took maybe days, weeks, months, even years of time and sweat. I want to know.

And I will do the same as much as I can on your work when it’s my turn to tell you what I think.

I recently joined an online group from my college and every month we submit a piece to be critiqued. It’s a lottery system, so everyone picks a genre to write and a genre to critique. We randomly get matched, and two weeks later we have to have submitted a critique.

The moment I got that email, I was immediately told what the writer wanted me to look at in their piece. I finished it the next day, but I didn’t submit it for several more days, maybe a week. The reason I did this was because I didn’t want to give a generic, “this was good, this was bad; loved it!” critique. I wanted to look back at what I wrote and try to see what I could improve. I gave constructive criticism, which isn’t what I get back most of the time. I only hope it was helpful enough. The point of criticism is to work with the writer, find flaws, inconsistences, errors in logic, plot holes, etc. in order to refine their work. Editing can be a pain, so why not get an outward perspective.

When I get a critique I want to see this kind of response. I recently got my critique back, maybe an hour ago. I’m not sure how to take it. It definitely gives insight as to what can be improved, though no solid suggestions, only pointing out flaws. I think, nonetheless it can be helpful. I can’t have everything handed to me on a platter. I have to work this out on my own. Some challenges are worth having.

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