Monday, July 9, 2012

Five Basic Truths About Critiques

At the monthly meeting of the local writers' association last week, we broke into groups of ten to twelve and each group did a critique on three pages of whatever each person brought to share.  The groups included a mixture of writing experience and genres so, not surprisingly, the critiques covered a wide range of comments and suggestions. 

Listening to what everyone had to say, and tossing in my own critiquing experiences, I came up with five basic truths about critiques.

1-  A critique is not always correct.  Just because a critique suggests something needs to be changed/deleted/strengthened/etc. doesn't mean it does. 

2 - Sometimes a critique is correct.  And it may give you the insight you've been searching for (yea!) or it may leave you pounding your head against your desk.

3 - Genre makes a difference.  Good writing is good writing but there are conventions and practices that vary from genre to genre.  It can be difficult for a romance writer to critique a hard core sci fi or for the sci fi writer to critique a cozy mystery.   

4 - Most critique partners or group members have individual strengths and weaknesses.   One may be great on dialogue, another can spot a punctuation error a mile away.  It helps to know who's good at what.

5 - In the end, it's still your story.  Critiques can be enormously helpful in making your story as good as it can be, but it's up to you to decide how, where, and when to use the suggestions of others.  It's got to be right for you.


What do you think?  Do you agree with these?  Care to offer your own "truth" about critiques?


This picture has absolutely nothing to do with today's post but it's been so blasted hot lately, I thought it might make everyone feel a little cooler.  I took this after an ice storm last February.


Did it help?


Thoughts for Today: 

How much deeper would the ocean be without sponges?

When the chips are down, the buffalo is empty.

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

30 comments:

Linda G. said...

Excellent, excellent points. All of them.

This is why I have four CPs and three beta readers. They all have their areas of expertise, and they are all provide valuable input...even when they don't agree. *grin*

Maria Zannini said...

Excellent truths!

My own truth is this: Deep down I always know which are the sucky parts in a story. That's why some crits sting more than others. They picked out what I didn't want to admit.

Julie Dao said...

Great points! I think it's important to remember that critique is just an opinion. In the end we have to decide what's best for our own stories, and a good critique will help us think harder about it.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Ironically one of my critique partners for CassaFire was a romance writer, but she focused more on the characters and relationships. (And since it was my first time writing a female character, I was grateful for her help.)

LD Masterson said...

Linda G - Sometimes you get your best input when crit partners don't agree.

LD Masterson said...

Maria - Yup. That would be that head banging on the desk part.

LD Masterson said...

Julie - Very true.

LD Masterson said...

Alex - Good point. Critiquing across genres may be more difficult but may also give valuble insight.

Lydia Kang said...

Well said! I love your quips. Hilarious!

L. Diane Wolfe said...

Being a photographer, that last quip had me rolling!

Stacy McKitrick said...

Whenever I bring something to critique to that group, I expect to be riduculed at some point (because you know how many paranormal romance writers there are in that group and the other two don't show up anymore!), so I look for the comments that indicate I have a problem communicating - whether it be description, dialogue tags, or a jump in POV. If they don't like the romance, or the italics (for thoughts or mind reading), I tend to igore those comments, because I know what is what. But feedback is feedback and I'll take what I can get!!

By the way - I love today's thoughts!

Carol Kilgore said...

Knowing the strengths of each critique partner makes it much easier to know which comments are usually spot on.

LD Masterson said...

Thanks, Lydia.

LD Masterson said...

Diane - I think there's some basic truth in that statement, too.

LD Masterson said...

Stacy - I agree we have a few people in the group who are genre snobs. Just have to pick through and keep what's useful.

LD Masterson said...

Carol - Absolutely. It makes breaking in new partners a bit of a challenge.

DL Hammons said...

You nailed all five! It is so hard to find CP's that provide balance, and resonate on the same frequency. Excellent observations!! :)

LD Masterson said...

Thanks, DL. Any writer that has found that balanced team is very lucky indeed.

Tara Tyler said...

excellent crit advice and always love your daily thoughts =)

Maryann Miller said...

Very good points, and I found them so true when I was in critique groups.
Laughed out loud at your last joke.

Stephen Tremp said...

You are right in the not every CP is correct. You have to stick to your guns as the story is yours. I'm glad I stayed with my story as a couple of early CP had totally different ideas for my book.

Sharon Hamilton said...

I think it's very important to have cross-genre critiques too. I'm in a couple of crit groups. Each one "catches" some things I wouldn't have seen, and often things the other group doesn't. I don't always take the advice, but trying to spread out a readership beyond our genre a little is good for sales, methinks!

Sarah Allen said...

Very, very helpful. Many of my friends are fantasy writers, while I am not, and that has been interesting in terms of critiquing each others work.

Sarah Allen
(my creative writing blog)

LD Masterson said...

Thanks, Tara. Hope you found something useful.

LD Masterson said...

Maryann - I love making someone laugh out loud.

LD Masterson said...

Stephen - I'm glad you stuck to your guns. It's so easy to be swayed.

LD Masterson said...

Sharon - Hey, thanks for coming by.

You make a good point. When I wrote this post, I had just come out of a group crit session where a lot of the negative comments were genre bias so I was focused on that problem. As you and Alex pointed out, there are benefits in getting cross-genre feedback.

LD Masterson said...

Sarah - I have the same problem. Lots of friends who write fantasty romance and I'm over here writing mystery/suspense. Sometimes it's like we write in different languages. :-)

Mike Keyton said...

I've been lucky with crit partners, each with their individual strengths, all of them thorough. The balance is crucial and in yourself that balance between confidence and humility

LD Masterson said...

Mike - I'm envious of writers who have found that perfect balanced crit group. Very special. As for my own balance...well, let's just say I'm working on it.