Yawatta would like to invite MONICA SHAUGHNESSY as a guest. She has a very entertaining post to share about how to interpret constructive criticism from critique groups/partners. Her blog is http://monicashaughnessy.wordpress.com if anyone would like to check her out. Thanks again Monica!
“Your dialogue reads like an Xtranormal video on horse tranquilizers.”
“Your plot has more holes than Homer Simpson’s underwear.”
“I couldn’t find anything wrong. I liked it.”
Now don’t get me wrong. Hearing that someone else likes your work can be a real ego booster. And at times, we writers need some of the good stuff to keep us going in a rejection-happy industry bent on destroying our optimism. Trouble is, if you keep hearing “I liked it” too often from fellow critiquers, you’re 1) in the wrong group or 2) in the right group, but everyone knows you’ll key their car on the way out if they tank your story. Either way, seek help immediately.
If, however, you ARE hearing things from your early readers, and you’re choosing to ignore them, then do so at your own publishing peril. I’ve been in many, many different critique groups over the years, both through SCBWI and through online classes, and those resistant to criticism are usually one of the following writers:
- Shrinking Violet: Attends group once and only once, having relied on Grandma (without her reading glasses) and her cat, Mr. Snickles (with his reading glasses), to review her work in the past. Any negative comments will cause her to wither, abandon her literary pursuits, and take up knitting cat hair ponchos instead.
- Blustery Gus: Attends group regularly and loves to hear his words read aloud. During comments, he lets rebuttals fly, fiercly defending his work, justifying each over-used comma and cliche, even if he suspects everyone else is right. Why? Because he CAN’T be wrong. Everything he writes is worthy of being cross-stitched in gold letters across Larry Kirshbaum’s pillow.
- Inspector Clueless: Attends group, usually sporadically, because that’s what Real Writers do. He nods when people comment on his manuscript, but returns next week with the same glaring mistakes. He doesn’t understand the fuss over sagging tension and drifting POV’s. Further, he doesn’t understand how to FIX sagging tension and drifting POV’s.
Bottom line: if you see yourself (even marginally) in any of the categories above, you’ve got some work to do.
Angry car keyers aside, the rest of us should seek out what needs improving so we can get better–even if it’s painful. When we get better, guess what? We still have room for improvement. Hemingway rewrote the final page of A Farewell to Arms 39 times to “get the words right.” How do you know when the words are right? If after your critique group has raked it over the coals, your beta readers have kicked it through the dirt, and you’ve word-smithed it for the tenth or twentieth or fortieth time, and there’s not ONE THING you would change, then you can stop.
Until then, ears open to criticism and fingers on the keyboard.
What do YOU think? Are you in a critique group? If so, what’s been your experience with criticism? Has it help you or hurt you?