We all know the importance of critiquing, how it helps to better our writing even though at the same time the process quite literally has the ability to shatter your confidence. Recently I enrolled in a course at a nearby college, the class originally consisted of about 14 people, but toward the end only 10 of us finished. The beauty about this class is that the genres in which we invested our time are all so different. There is Historical, Romance and Sci-Fi all of which I found were really well written and look forward to reading more of.
When the class ended, it seemed a good idea to continue as an on-line writing group where we could all still critique each other’s work, have consistency and a deadline that would keep us all writing. Although it seemed like a good idea at first, our little group seems to be lacking in the consistency department, which was the one thing I looked forward to. Most of us are submitting our pages on time; we established a schedule and some critiques are posted shortly after, but only by a select few. I get that we all have busy lives, but it doesn’t help that fact that we sometimes spend days waiting on pins and needles for those critiques to go up in the discussion and I mean days. Something I find a bit disrespectful when it takes incredible courage to put yourself and you writing out there, for what in all honesty, I could only describe is close to a public stoning. Okay, maybe my analogy is a little dramatic, but nonetheless the experience is a scary one and I am speaking for myself here. In the words of one fellow blogger Heather Gardner, the waiting is the hardest part. Maybe I am a little naive. I mean, I don’t know what I expected from a group of strangers, but thinking that because we all essentially had the same goal in mind, I thought that perhaps that was our connection. Perhaps that was the one thing that would enable us to support and encourage each other to do great. Unfortunately, that isn’t always the case.
The idea for this blog started when one of our group members gave me that public stoning. I don’t claim to be Hemingway, I don’t claim to be better than anyone else in fact I know there are much better writers out there. But I try and do what I enjoy most and that’s creating a story that I feel is worth not only telling, but reading as well. So when you get that one person whose opinion you know is unfounded, complete rubbish to be honest, it really does a number on your confidence and not to mention your ego. I am an incredibly open-minded person and I can take criticism, but when the critique is not a critique but an opinion things change. The way this opinion was delivered gave me the impression that:
A. This person just didn’t get it
B. This person did not take the time, completely rushed through the reading.
The latter is disheartening. I am open to brutal honesty, open to constructive and clear criticism, but not false assumptions about one’s characters. When the behaviours of my characters, my babies for lack of a better word are questioned, I will have something to say about it. Excuse me for being defensive, but when someone’s words have me second-guessing myself even though I know this person was wrong, it bothers me. After that particular critique I went back and read what I had written to see if maybe I had missed something and after doing so I came to the conclusion that both A and B played a factor in the critique.
I do have to mention that there is an upside to all this, within this group there are a couple of people whose critiques are incredibly helpful. One of them is fellow writer and blogger Catherine Lo, who is tremendously helpful and supportive, hop over to her new blog Love The Story, it’s great.
Anyway, the bottom line is take your time PEOPLE, read and re-read the submissions before you critique, be constructive, clear, respectful and most of encouraging. This is hard work and there is quite literally blood, sweat, and tears involved in producing a good story.
Have you ever had a critique you didn’t agree with? Have you ever had the sense that your critique partner hasn’t read you work? What have you done about it?