Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Writing Wednesday: Dealing with Critiques

Alternate Title: Why can’t readers read my mind?

I recently found a really cool site for writer wanting to bring their craft up to the next level. Scribophile, it’s a site where you can critique other peoples writing and have them critique yours.

Just a word of warning it isn’t a free lunch, in order to post something to be critiqued you need to critique 3 or 4 other works, but that system pays off nicely as it means you will have 3 or 4 people critique your work.

This means you have other writers tear your masterpiece to shreds, but that’s how we learn isn’t it.

Having people critique you’re work is hard, because you’ve put a lot of work in it to make it just right and now you have people look at it from a totally different point of view. So if you have someone critique your work remember a few things.

Some people are going to completely miss your point.

It happens, sometimes it’s the reader’s fault but even so it is a good time to go back and see if you can clarify your point.

Nobody’s prefect and spell chalk can miss things.

On message boards a breed of trolls pop up called “Grammar Nazis”. There they are annoying. However in critiques they are the greatest people in the world. When you run into one of them thank them profusely. The nitpicking of spelling/grammar/word choice is something that would cost big bucks to hire a professional to do.

The hardest critiques to give and get are for a style you normally avoid.

Everyone has picked up a book that people rave about start reading it and go, “Okay, what’s the big deal?” as a reader you just put it down and go, it’s not for me. Some of the authors I can’t read have huge followings, Dan Brown, Steinbeck, and others. Some of my favorite authors are greeted with, “Ugh,” when I mention their names to other people.

It’s really tough to critique some one whose work reminds of an author you can’t stand, telling someone that you think their writing is, “like if Steinbeck was a decent writer,” probably isn’t all that helpful to a Steinbeck fan.

So getting critiques from people who normally would avoid your style is a mixed blessing. It can help you broaden your audience but they will probably have trouble expressing what they did and did not like about the work.

Finally, it is all opinion.

Writing is one of the few things in the world where there are a million ways to do something and they are all correct.

When I do my first rewrite of something I either say, “This is the greatest thing that has ever been written, Nobody can miss the fact that is a true masterpiece,” or I say, “What the hell was I thinking? Nobody wants to read this crap.”

The truth for both is probably somewhere in-between for my greatest stuff even I’m not that enthusiastic about it a week later and my crap I tend to look back on and see the good bits that might be able to be polished up.

There are going to be a few people that view your writing as great and a few that see the crap shining through, but most people will see both parts. That’s where the many critiques you get on Scribophile helps. If you get many critiques that point out the same thing you know that part needs to be changed, the parts are just opinions that you can weigh as to how seriously you need to take them.

Now I’ve got to go critique some more stories.

By Darrell B. Nelson author of Invasive Thoughts


Stephanie Barr said...

Giving and taking criticism are about the hardest thing a writer can do. Good criticism [accurate/frank) is invaluable (much more so than gushing, believe me).

Bad criticism is unbelievably painful.

That's why critiquing is so hard. You have to be truthful, but you don't want to be brutal either.

Project Savior said...

One nice thing about critiquing other peoples work is that I've found it helps me to critique my own better.
For my own stuff I do tend to be a little more brutal than I am with others.

Shakespeare said...

Often the most scathing critiques are authored by those who cannot take criticism at all. I might still try this service, but I need to be sure to temper my expectations.

I would rather know the people who critique my stuff, if only so that I can take them out to lunch while we discuss the book, so that I can ask frequent questions and take great notes.

What types of writing can be submitted for a critique through the site?

Project Savior said...

Petty much anything. They only ask that it is tagged so people don't get shocked if they run across the wrong stuff.
I've seen everything there from poetry to book chapters.
As far getting to know your critiquers it is encouraged, through fans, scratch pad to send notes, private messaging and forums.