Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Critiquing – an about face. Seriously?

If you’ve seen past posts on this, you’ll know I have always been wary of critiquing and critique partners. Jeez, who am I kidding? I was convinced I didn’t want it and didn’t need it – not because my work was perfect (yeah, right) – but because the very thought of it terrified me. And yeah, I’m used to relying on myself and getting things done on my own, and I figured I could complete my journey to publication without it. It might have been a teensy, tiny bit arrogant :). It’s not that I worried about the feedback, but I’d heard all the nightmare stories about critique experiences. Trying to write and get published is hard enough, without having to deal with THOSE hassles and it all sounded very time consuming. And sending my work to some unknown person (who may or may not be a ‘good’ writer or know what they’re talking about) just so that they could rip it to shreds? Or tell me it was ‘fine’ or ‘great’ when it really sucked? Who needs that? But there was always something niggling at me, back in the dark recesses of my mind – every published author I had heard talk on this subject and nearly every aspiring author I had read/listened to – ALL had critique partners. Huh. It’s not that I thought they were wrong (OK, it may have crossed my mind), but for awhile I still thought I could do without it. Until recently. I got the courage from somewhere to give it a try. Again, I wasn’t worried about the nature of the feedback. I was more worried about being steered in a wrong direction and wasting valuable time. I was worried I’d get feedback and I’d be like ‘I have no idea what this person is talking about’. I was worried an obligation would be established in a relationship I wouldn’t want to continue and I’d have no idea how to deal with that. None of that happened and through it I realized some things. I can’t see my work with fresh eyes or in a new light once I’ve worked on it for so long. Only a new reader can do that. I can’t necessarily see structural issues, grammatical problems or even wrongly used words because I’ve read through it so many times. I can’t see gaps or poor transitions or even some inconsistencies because I’m so familiar with my own work. I’ve come to realize that critiquing can provide a whole other rich layer to a written piece. Imagine that? The trick is finding someone who has a similar style or writes in a similar genre and perhaps has strengths that complements your weaknesses. Easier said than done I know. I’ve discovered you can get a sense of someone in a very short span of time and you just have to trust your instincts. Plus, you can ignore everything they say if you want and perhaps try someone else. This trial and error process seems to be a pretty standard approach.

So, yeah, I guess you could say I’ve had an about face on critiquing because my experiences have all been wonderful, positive, valuable, enlightening, and enriching. I think my work will be better for it.


  1. Good for you! Believe me, I know about those same fears. But I found some very valuable crit partners and yeah, they see stuff I miss. Thanks to them my work is so much better.

  2. I think it may take a while to find CPs you really gel with but it's SO worth it. I have several as well as being part of a crit group and it's not only crit they provide you with. They also help with brainstorming and give you support when things aren't going so great. Also, critting other people's work can be really valuable in terms of helping you see stuff in your own.
    Honestly, I wouldn't be without my CPs. They're fantastic.

  3. Hi Kaily -- so glad you've had a good experience! A good CP is worth her wait in gold. But it's essential that you have the right fit.

  4. I agree wholeheartedly, though I had the same reservations when I started out. Like you, I also found out that a CP can help me make my work better. Plus, the encouragement your CP gives you is hugely helpful too.

    Hope you continue to have good experiences! :)

  5. Kaily,

    Just from the other side of things - mostly I don't work with a critique partner. There are actually a lot of authors who don't. It's not because I think my writing is the best ever. I know it's not. Recently, I've started using beta readers who read a manuscript from a reader's POV, and I find their input really helpful. They pick up on inconsistensies etc

  6. I have CPs and enjoy meeting with them every Friday night. They've all been writing longer than me and have taught me so much.

    Bottom line is, it's your WIP. Use the suggestions or don't. The decision is always YOURS!! :)