Monday, June 25, 2012

The Critiquing Process - Circle the Wagons or Full Speed Ahead.

I recently joined a new online critique group. It's one of those put together by a matchmaker through a writing group we all belong to.  Five of us, all unpublished and with finished or nearly finished manuscripts of similar genres, who didn't know each other prior to joining the group. And all fairly new at critiquing.

We got off to a good start, agreeing on how many pages we'd submit at a time and on what schedule.  The first two rounds ran smoothly, critiques given and received.  But by the third round we came up with a question.  If one or more members of the group had re-written their earlier pages based on the critiques received, could/ should they re-post them for a follow up critique instead of posting new pages. 

We agreed it could be helpful to let the writer know if the others thought she was moving in the right direction before she went on but would re-critiquing the same pages at this point slow us down too much, making it difficult to finish each other's manuscripts?

So, as writers do, I'm looking to the more experienced among us for advice. If you are or have been in a critique group, did you run into this question?  How did you handle it?  If you circled back, did it bog down the progress of the group.  Did you benefit from a re-write and re-critique process?  Did anyone get caught in an endless loop?

I'd really appreciate your input.


Thanks to all that offered their vote on a replacement for my regular groaners (last Friday's post).  I'm working out a new "post closers" schedule but for now I offer these - which are neither quotes, bloopers, groaners, or trivia, but I hope will give you a chuckle.

Thoughts for Today:

Everyone has a photographic memory. Some don't have film.

A day without sunshine is like ... well... night.

On the other hand, you have different fingers.

When the chips are down, the buffalo is empty.

(Hmmm, maybe that last one was a groaner.  Sorry.)

33 comments:

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

My critique partners usually start by sending me the first section they've critiqued, usually twenty pages or so. I make adjustments to the entire manuscript and then resend. That often eliminates stupid, repetitive mistakes. (I'm good at those.)

Carol Kilgore said...

Love all your thoughts!

I'm like Alex - work through and, if needed, send everything a second time. There are exceptions to this, but only every once in a while. A certain passage or bit of a scene may still not feel right enough for you to continue. But it shouldn't be every page every week. In my opinion. I have two critique partners now and I haven't been in a larger group for a while. Good luck working this out.

Maria Zannini said...

I usually work with published authors, or at least very accomplished writers and because of that I've always maintained a strict policy not to crit something I've critted before.

1. It's not fair to the others in the group to reread work for one person who may not feel confident enough to work through the rough patches on her own.

2. Much like my virginity, my objectivity is tarnished after a crit. To give my very best assessment, I need to read it without anticipating what comes next in the story.

I don't turn people down to be mean, but rather to prevent myself from making an error in judgment.

If the group is very inexperienced, you might want to allow a second review, but I still don't think it's fair to the group at large. Your time is valuable.

Julie Dao said...

When I had 2 critique partners, the 3 of us each sent one chapter at a time to be critiqued. We were all pretty strong writers so there was little in the way of copyediting, but we'd each make comments on plot/dialogue/etc. And then we would move on to the next chapter. I guess it was assumed that we would work on our edits separately instead of having people read the same thing over more than once (although we were all happy to do so if requested). At the end, when we all had completed manuscripts, we'd send those to one another so we could all get the feel for the story as a whole.

Julie Dao said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
L. Diane Wolfe said...

I let my partners go through the whole thing and if there was a scene that really needed a rewrite, I let them read it again.

Cate Masters said...

In my group, re-reads of revised pages are by special request, and usually on a reciprocal basis. It doesn't happen often, though. I'm lucky to have three crit partners who've evolved with me over the years, and we're all pretty much on the same level. It's tough to find partners like that, so I treasure them. :)

LD Masterson said...

Alex - Do you send each other the entire manuscript? We've been sharing 15-20 pages at a time.

LD Masterson said...

Carol - Thanks on the thoughts. Just a change of pace.

I do wonder whether five is too many. I sometimes have trouble clearing one person's story out of my head when working on another one.

LD Masterson said...

Maria - Your virginity was tarnished?

I'm a bit concerned about the endless loop thing but at the same time, a second look can help with a "is this what you meant?" question.

LD Masterson said...

Julie - We're not doing much in the way of copyediting. More, as you said - plot/dialogue/characters. Sounds like moving on works for more groups.

LD Masterson said...

Diane - Okay, that makes sense.

LD Masterson said...

Cate - I fear we have a lot of working-the-bugs-out ahead of us. Hopefully, some or all of this group will evolve into lasting partners.

DL Hammons said...

I prefer moving on. You can always revisit the pages when the group has all finished their first go round. :)

Angela Brown said...

You know you couldn't help yourself. Had to slip something it with some groaner-appeal :-)

I've been part of critique groups where we did a re-critique, however, it was best to only do the one re-critique for the chapter and not multiple times. That's when you can get bogged down. Plus, that one re-critique could impact the direction that writer could take with future chapters.

Maryann Miller said...

I have never been in an online critique situation unless it was with one crit partner and we would send pages back and forth as needed. Most of the time we did not resend work after it had been read once by the other. But we were not very structured in amount of pages or time frame, etc.

My prior experience was with groups that met face to face and everyone could read up to ten pages and get verbal comments. We focused on craft - plot, characterization, dialogue, etc. and did not do any copy editing of each others work. If a person brought a scene to read it again after working on it, that was okay. It didn't hold anyone back.

LD Masterson said...

DL - Thanks. Looks like the majority agrees with you.

LD Masterson said...

Angela - No, honest, I didn't pick it to be a groaner. But when I was giving the post a final reading I realized it was pretty close.

I think you're right that anything over one re-critque, if we even want to go that far, is a bad idea.

LD Masterson said...

Maryann - I'm in a local group that meets face to face to do crits but the group has gotten so big, we only do three pages at a time. Difficult to get a feel for some things in three pages.

Arlee Bird said...

I still need to get into a critique group. I also need to write something to be critiqued. Ah, it's a vicious circle, but I hope I don't enter into a vicious circle.

The groaners were good, but these short thoughts are good too. I'm easily entertained.


Lee
Wrote By Rote
An A to Z Co-host blog

Linda G. said...

LOL! You always leave me with a laugh (and a groan)--thanks for that!

Re critiquing: I have several beta readers, four of whom are also my crit partners. We're not a group--I work with each one individually, and we each have our own arrangement, taking into account what works best for us as partners. Sometimes we'll reread a bit of something previously critiqued, but not often.

Darke Conteur said...

I was in a crit group a few years back. I hope you have a better experience than I did.

Ciara said...

I have two to three critique partners. I'll send the entire manuscript to the first, make changes, send to the second. If I'm still getting the same notes, I'll send a message to the third, asking if I've fixed the issue, or if it still needs work.

Tara Tyler said...

i educated myself reading all the responses! thanks! and thanks, ld for asking!

i have limited experience, not sure how to go about getting more crit partners...maybe i'll post an ad or something...

LD Masterson said...

Lee - Don't worry about the circle, just pick a place and dive in.

LD Masterson said...

Linda G - Glad to give you a laugh. We need more laughs.

I can see where working with crit partners one on one would have adantages over working as a group. Maybe we'll need to re-visit our process. Thanks.

LD Masterson said...

Darke - There seems to be a very wide variety of experiences with crit groups. We're really trying to make this group work.

LD Masterson said...

Ciara - Ah, now that's a process that hadn't been suggested. Maybe a round robin sort of thing would work. If I may ask, how do you decided the order?

LD Masterson said...

Tara - Do you belong to any writers' groups? That's a good place to look. Or blog about it and see who responds.

Stephen Tremp said...

I've only had initial read throughs by critique partners, then I make changes and move forward with my editor. This seems to work best for me.

Mike Keyton said...

I post my work chapter by chapter to http://sff.onlinewritingworkshop.com/
Only then do I send a fairly clean wholebook copy to my crit group. I'd never ask them to re-read it again. I'm with Maria on that. If it's still lacking after that, well you could just go on and on

LD Masterson said...

Stephen - Ah, the joys of having an editor.

LD Masterson said...

Mike - I'm not familiar with that website. Going to go take a peek.