Tuesday, February 12, 2013

critiquing

My critique groups have been undergoing quite a bit of change lately. I don't know if everyone's making changes and resolutions at the beginning of the new year or what. The net result is I have some different critique partners. And they are writing and submitting up a storm. Yeah! I love the enthusiasm new critique partners bring to a group. There's a certain honeymoon period where they seem to think, 'You mean I get write stuff and get a bunch of feedback for free?' Of course, the honeymoon can end when they actually study the critiques they get. 'You mean my work isn't perfect?' If writers can consider critique and keep writing and keep going to group, that bodes well for their writing career.

Critique group exists to give feedback. Critiquers should say briefly what works in a piece, but they should also say what doesn't work. Critiquers should also be very specific. 'This rocks.' or 'This sucks.' do not contain any actionable information. 'This plot twist was unexpected but takes the work in a new and exciting direction.' is specific. 'When the protagonist beat up the little kid, he was very unsympathetic.' is specific. Be specific when critiquing!

I find I often say some of the same things over and over to critique partners. I'm not sure what to make of this. One of my MFA professors called this "bobble-headisms" and said each writer has certain mistakes they tend to make. The example he gave was one writer who's characters kept nodding their heads all the time. Good writers learn what mistakes they make and try to correct them before they submit to critique group or for publication. This particular professor recommended making a hit-list of writing problems and then looking for them after a draft is finished and wiping them out. Bam! Bam!

I started this post thinking about critique partners, but maybe I need to do my own homework. What mistakes do I tend to make? Hhm...
How about you? What mistakes do you tend to make? Do you know? How can you find out?
Good luck!

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