Monday, April 16, 2007

How do I Know what to use and what not to use from a critique?

Part 2:-)

One of the things that is so important to a writer is getting critiqued. It's the only way we can learn and grow specifically on our own work. We're often so close to it, have rewritten it so many times, or have our minds race ahead and forget a crucial moment. Sure, we can take classes (oh boy do I) and we can go to conferences (personal necessity), but without putting our own work out there for someone to read, we have no way of honing our personal skill level.

I absorb things like a sponge. (This would be a bad phrase to use because it's a cliche, however, until I wrote it and someone pointed out my cliches, I couldn't figure out that I used too many cliches.) A better, more original way to say it might be...I swallow every tidbit like the deer who ate my entire rose patch last summer in one sitting. The way I wouldn't want to say it would be exactly like another author. It's crucial to realize that some people just want to mow down your flowers. Don't ask them for a critique. If they've given you one and you aren't comfortable with it, find someone trustwothy to go over it with you. It might be you are touchy, but it might be that the critique is off-base.

Point one: When getting critiqued, do not simply incorporate every sentence example from the critiquer. It has to be your own voice. Consider the example as exactly that, an example.

Point two: Consider the knowledge level of the person offering a critique. I've had wonderful readers, but they don't know grammar. I wouldn't use their advice on spelling and grammar, but I would listen to what they liked or didn't like about what caught their imagination or what threw them out of the story. Why? They are avid readers.

Point three: Toss out any extreme negativity. It's not worth your time, effort, psyche, or hurt feelings to listen to a person who is simply obnoxious. And yes, I've had a judge in a contest be this way. Honestly, why say things just to hurt? If it doesn't teach you something, then it isn't valuable insight.

Point four: Only use what enhances your story. Sometimes, you've sparked the other person's imagination. I've received back a critique that tried to rewrite my story in their words and would have changed a perfectly fine plot. Nope, won't work. Has to be your words.

Point five: Make sure the critiquer understands your target publisher. If not, they might try to send you in the wrong direction with ideas. The ideas quite often to help you go deeper in POV or into a more in depth plot.

Point six: Consider clarifying. Sometimes the critique is too general. Be sure you understand fully what they were trying to say. Unless it's a contest, most critique partners, paid critique services, and friends are happy to explain.

Point seven: Be sure the critique is really for your story. LOL, I'm serious. I received one back that didn't even describe my characters or the book I'd written. The person was confused because of the amount of critiques they were trying to do for that particular contest.

Point eight: Errors. If someone is pointing out a misspelled word, please look it up. I've had so many people correct my spelling and they are wrong. Allow yourself the time to double check.

Point nine: Get more than one critique. If it's too good to be true, you need an honest one done. If it's too negative, you'll need someone to balance it out. I suggest several. The Bible says, "With many counselors plans succeed." (You'll find it in Proverbs.) This will help you to see patterns versus opinions. You need to know if there is a pattern to what is pointed out to you. If it is just subjective opinion, with many counselors, it'll stick out as merely an opinion. Opinions don't tell YOUR story. They try to change it and the story isn't the one you wanted to write.

Point ten: Have I learned something from this? The whole point of critiques is your education. The more willing you are to learn and grow, the closer you are to being published. Don't take offense, inhale the roses before the deer get them again.
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