Monday, 5 April 2010

Critiques. How? What? Erm?

Critique groups. Critique partners and just critiques in general make my stomach quiver.

Now, I have excellent critique buddies who I trust to give it to me straight so I can make my novel the best I can. But the one thing I want to get off my chest is my critique method.

I want to be a good crit buddy. To help, give advice, support and all the usual stuff but I worry about my methods. Am I too soft and should I be harsher? Should I critique for the sake of it? Or just comment on the bits I think need it?

Sometimes I just feel I'm lacking the critique gene :(

I read a lot. As a result tend to critique from the perspective of a reader. I read twice, crit once. I'm not grammar queen but I have my skills, so I'm told. Plus, I can spot a repetitive word like a demon.

The valuable thing about crit groups is each person brings a different skill. I'm the one who will tell you what I like, what I don't get etc. There are others who have the amazing ability to be blunter but that's just not me.

So I've found some handy tips to, hopefully, help with critiques.

Jana did a couple of cool posts on critique groups and tips:

And here's some more:

Now it's open to you guys. How do you approach critiquing?


JE said...

Like you, I tend to crit like a reader. I'm not big on grammar stuff, I can't even catch those problems in my own ms. I'm soft...but firm at the same time. I always point out what doesn't work for me. What sounds weird. Descriptions that don't make sense. Wordiness. Plot problems I find. General, what the heck was the writer thinking? I just tend to find things I like/don't like/see a problem with and point them out. There's really no "right" and "wrong" way. Like you said - everyone brings different skills to the table.

Shannon O'Donnell said...

Awesome! Thanks so much for the links. And as for your crit. abilities, you're right - we all bring different strengths and viewpoints to a manuscript, which is why having more than one crit. partner is beneficial. Offer what you do best, and it will always be appreciated. :-)

Eeleen Lee said...

I tend to approach it two ways- first as a reader in a bookshop and then as an agent (because in the end, we all want to sell the story)

Talli Roland said...

I try to be honest, but temper that with sensitivity. It's hard but I believe people come to you to hear what you think... so you owe it to them.

Elana Johnson said...

I'm sort of like you, but I point out what I find to be absolutely unbelievable. And I can't help line editing. It's like a disease or something.

Overall, I think the best advice about crits is to surround yourself with people you love. That way, when they slash you open and make you bleed, you know it's out of love and not because they enjoy it.

Mayowa said...

I definitely look at the big picture when I critique manuscripts. Things like pacing, motivation and tension etc.

I'm pretty hopeless at line editing and depend on my critique partners and editors to catch my errors.

It's good to be firm i think. Most mature writers (who are these self disciplined aliens anyway?) can take a firm critique. Me? I obsess over feedback big time.

Zoe C. Courtman said...

Critiquing is definitely harrowing - whether you're on the giving or receiving end (right now, I'm quivering because I'm waiting on Moonrat's (from Editorial Ass) crit of my first 20 pages. Ack!). When giving them, I look at the big picture and also focus on the line-by-line since, yanno, punctuation can change the whole meaning of a sentence. And I always start off by giving the writer some positives :)

Anonymous said...

I try to give the kind of critique I want to get-honest, but helpful. If I see a problem, I say because that's what I'm expecting from my critique buddies. But I try to phrase it in a way that's constructive, and I always present it as my humble opinion.

Thanks for the link to my blog! :)