nother writing group is next week, and last week I happened upon several critique posts (Merrilee Fabber of Not Enough Words: The Yin-Yang of Writing, How to Interpret Criticism, How to Apply Criticism), all of which got me thinking about my own critique process…or rather, how I process critiques.
In January’s writing group, there was an overwhelming flood of newbies. We were one person shy of breaking fire code…oooh, us wild writers. But this new influx meant that the group facilitator had to give her writing group rules spiel. Rules isn’t exactly right. Guidelines and tips, more like. She explained that another person reads the piece; we chime in with the good first; use I statements; focus on the writing, not the writer; etc. She also gave her mother-in-law speech: Criticism is like a gift from your mother-in-law. You take it and say thank you because you know it was a well-intentioned gift, but then you take it home and evaluate it. Does it go with your decor? Is it your style? If yes, then keep it. If no, give it to Goodwill.
Then she cautioned not to read the criticism right away. I disagree.
When my writing is being read, I don’t look at a copy, I just listen. If I hear something that makes me cringe, I jot a note. In the critique session itself I also take notes. Then, when I get home, I read everything. After that, I rewrite everything (my notes, their notes, comments I remember but didn’t write down) onto one copy of the story. Why? With the good, the bad and the ugly all in one place, I can see if there are contradictory comments, if more than one person felt the same way and, if I’m starting to feel like I suck, I can find a positive comment to boost me back up. That and it allows me to let the snark out.
“You would think that.”
“Any moron with half a brain would get that.”
“I already told you that two paragraphs ago.”
Then I put it away. For a day, a week, a month…it depends. When I do come back, I heed the mother-in-law advice and weed through the comments. It’s much easier to be fair to that moron with less than half a brain when I’ve already used my dazzling wit to cut him/her down to size…and had time to cool off.
Even in the middle of my snarkfest, I can tell that some comments are absolutely spot on (she can’t lisp if she doesn’t say anything that includes an s) and other are just dumb (“never use a semicolon in fiction”…click and scroll down). After all, Mary Sue always demands that I use more adverbs and Johnny Walker always says that one word dialogue just doesn’t work. Regardless, I write them down, snark and reread them later. You never know when they might be right.
Everyone has their own way of tackling comments, but the let-it-settle idea is pretty pervasive. What do you think? What’s your process?
Daily Drop Cap by Jessica Hische.