Wednesday, June 19, 2013
Tough Love from Your Critique Group
Post by Jerry
I felt so lucky to be accepted into one of the longer running critique groups in town. I knew they were good, I just didn’t realize how much catching up I would need even to get close to their level of expertise. And this bunch brooks no slackers. They tell you once, but if your next submission does it again, castigations follow. There are eight of them, guaranteeing at least three, maybe five differing opinions. To wit:
• You must deepen your characters, they remind me of cardboard cutouts – I really liked how you develop your character’s inner turmoil over this problem.
• I’m concerned about the pace, it seems to drag – I was riveted, it pulled me right along.
• This is such really good material, just keep writing – I think you should start over.
• The opening paragraphs have no action – Loved the opening, it set such a fantastic scene.
• All the local vernacular is off-putting – Local idioms provide exactly the right flavor.
• Cut this, adds nothing – This is great, expand. (yep, two comments, same paragraph)
So what’s a poor neophyte to do? First, leave your ego at home. If you wear it on your sleeve, they will batter and bruise it, grind it up and spit it out. Before I accepted this, there were times I wanted to either get drunk after a meeting or become a farrier in order to escape this writing business.
Second, one of the group commented, “You may ignore me with impunity,” and I considered doing just that. But I know that each of them is making an honest effort to push me beyond my deficiencies. And I am truly grateful. Thus, my new coping metric is this: if two or more of them agree on some piece of advice, I pay attention. If three agree, it becomes a mandate, as in; Listen Up Jerry! Get on this! Do what they say!
And last, dig into their comments for more depth. Ask for deeper explanations. Ask for references that got it right and read them. My group wants more “layering” and I have no idea what the heck that is. But by the time this post goes up, I will have figured that out.
Meanwhile, I think I will find a farrier, apprentice myself to him, learn his craft intimately, and then I can write a farrier into some future essay, “layers” and all.
How do you cope with Caustic Critiques?