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?


Patricia Stoltey said...

I handle critiques the same way you do, Jerry. And even when I choose to ignore someone's advice, I remain grateful for their interest and their thoughtful comments.

Caustic comments, and relentless browbeating over a point as well, are rude and hurtful. If i were the new kid on the block in a group and felt uncomfortable calling the critiquer on his behavior, I guess I'd have a quiet little snit at home and shred the naughty person's critique. :D

Dean K Miller said...

Critique groups are risk/reward. We know those who have completely started over, changed or tore up good work because someone (or two)in their CG bashed it.

The tough comments, give ithem 24 or 48 hours and let the emotions slip away. The chance to be objective about their comments is as important as their remarks be objective as well.

In the end, it's your work. Someone is gonna say "I told you so" anyway. May it be you with your new bestseller in hand.

Lynn said...

Good comments from everybody. It might be the groups I've joined, but I haven't had too many caustic comments. One woman did count the number of "I"s in my memoir story and ding me for that.

I find it's mostly a gut thing for me. Sometimes a voice will whisper to me, "Oh, that's SO not what I was trying to do." Other times, I'll see exactly what the critiquer is talking about, and make changes accordingly.

Kerrie said...

Great post Jerry. It gets easier the more you put your work out there to get critiqued. I have found, like you, there are many different opinions. You soon find there are those critiquers you resonate with more and who feel more in sync with what you are trying to convey with your piece. It is these critiquers I tend to listen to more.

Share a Post