Critique, Editing, Feedback, Fiction, Group, Revision, Writing

Whence cometh thy critique?

In the last few days, I started three different blog posts and finished nary a one. Obviously, I’m out of touch with my brain right now. I spent two afternoons working in the garden, so it could be an allergy effect. In any case, I have nothing particularly witty or profound to say at the moment. (But I do sometimes, don’t I?)

I am working on both a novel and some short stories. Oooh, I just thought of how Demetri Martin writes with both hands at the same time. Wouldn’t it be cool if I could type on two keyboards simultaneously—one for the short story and the other for the novel chapter? I could be as prolific as Joyce Carol Oates. Not as good a writer, of course, but equally prolific. (Forgive me, I’m writing this with a headache.)

ANYWAY, I’ve been wondering how I’ll get critique on my works-in-progress. I no longer have access to a live critique group, and I’ve never been able to work up enthusiasm for joining online groups where I know no one—or more importantly—know nothing about anyone’s writing skills.

That led me to wondering how you all get feedback on your work. Do you seek it from one, a few, or many? Do you prefer live groups or virtual? Have those preferences changed over time? If you’re in a group, how does yours work? Specifically: How often do you meet? Do you read aloud? Do you receive the work ahead of time and critique at home, so you only discuss it at the meeting? How many members do you think is optimum? Do you critique all lengths of work?

What say ye?

Image © Drawing Hands by M. C. Escher, 1948

26 thoughts on “Whence cometh thy critique?”

  1. I’ve been trying to get feedback from mostly online sources. I could ask my family what they think but I’ve been looking for more technical help. It isn’t working out at all lol. I think it has something to do with how on the internet, we’re only words on a screen but in various forums people are far more cruel than they (probably) would be if you were speaking to them face-to-face.

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    1. I agree, Niqui, that it’s easy to lose sight of the person behind the screen, though some people are just as harsh in person. Our writing is such a personal thing it hurts to get negative comments on it, but if they’re warranted we need that. It doesn’t help us grow when we only get pats on the back. Of course, you have to learn to discern which comments actually have value. I hope you find a group that fits you soon.

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  2. Good questions, and it’s interesting to see the responses you’ve gotten. I used to think I’d like to have a face-to-face critique group, but as I write longer narratives and move farther away from literary fiction, I’d just as soon have a couple of people read sorta kinda completed pieces and tell me where they fall short from a story perspective. And that is easier, I think, to do with a virtual critique group. (Of course, I’d also like these readers to show me how/where to knock a story line out of a muddy ball park with some unexpected piece of brilliance.)

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  3. At this point, I have two critique partners, but only one is a writer, and those pieces are shared over email. My husband also reads all my work. Though he isn’t a writer, he is an excellent reader and knows quite a bit about story structure and flow. I am tempted to give the local Barnes and Noble writing group a whirl. I hear they are quite honest and “tough.” I’d like to see this for myself.

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  4. I belong to 2 critique groups, both quite differnt. I get a nice variety of feedback, some I use, some I don’t. If more than one person says the same thing, I take notice though. In one group we take turns reading while the others listen and take notes. Then they pass on their observations from a listener’s point of view. In the other group we email our selections ahead of time and then we read it to the group when we meet. These women are very detailed and sometimes go over it line by line, but they find a lot of small things I had missed. In the end both help me to produce better work. Without these groups I would have never completed my first novel.

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    1. I’ve never been in a group that read aloud, Darlene. My first impression is that I wouldn’t like that at all. But I’ve gained immeasurably from the critique partners I’ve had. Isn’t it amazing how each person picks up on something different? Or at least that’s how my last, small, group worked.

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