Everyone's a critic

Well, let's hope so, anyway. This week we're talking about critiques at the League- how to take them, what's good, what's bad, etc.

For me, writing doesn't happen in a vacuum, despite folks like Anne Rice supposedly shunning any editorial of her work these days. Being fairly new to the published side of the game, I can't imagine writing a complete book without getting some kind of feedback from other writers around me (I'm not very bright). My grandma's praise can only go so far and frankly, I'm a little suspect of her critical eye.

So how to find people to give you criticism that's actually going to help your work?

From my experience, some of the best criticism I have worked with has come from joining a writer's workshop where their feedback and insight were constant throughout the process of writing Dead To Me.

Here's some of my insights:

1) I chose to join a non-genre workshop. Why? For me, good writing is good writing no matter what type of tale. I've read enough fantasy to know the tropes and such of the genre, and I felt I would benefit more by having a mixed critique group coming from a variety of genres. The multitude of opinions from those different angles made for a richer book out of me in the end.

2) Don't get defensive. I've watched people defend their work to the death before even really letting the critic finish or letting the criticism sink in. Yes, your book is your precious little baby, but if you want yer baby to grow up and wear big boy writer pants, listen. You don't have to act on what they're saying. Some of the criticism may be shit (consider the source and if you respect the type of writing they do) but give what they have to say due diligence.

3) Back patting sessions. The sign of a bad workshop is one where everyone simply strokes everyone else's ego. The odds of everyone being so genius that they have nothing critical to say are slim. You're not going to get anything helpful from this other than a false sense of accomplishment. Run away, terribly fast. Conversely, don't get caught up in a workshop where the criticism comes in the form of constant lambasting. You want criticism...the constructive kind.

4) Give as good as you get. Workshops are a symbiotic relationship by their nature. Don't expect everyone to give you great criticism if you're not going to return the favor. That's just rude. You might join one not knowing how to give good critique at first, but by listening and learning, it won't be long before you'll find that you do have something to contribute.

5) A lot of criticism given comes from each writer's personal process, which means it might be great advice, but not necessarily something that's going to work for your book.

6) There's little room for ego in a critique group. Don't get defensive, don't argue, keep any histrionics in check. Your fellow writers aren't personally attacking you , they're trying to help you tell a better story (at least in a good workshop environment). You might disagree with what they are saying, but take what they say home with you and sleep on in. Don't waste the workshop's time by raging against the writerly machine.

I could go on, but then what would my fellow Leaguers be left with for the week? Probably just their Pikachu/Venture Brothers slash tales...

Comments

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