Critiquing

20 12 2013

Into every Writer’s life, some critiquing must fall.

Fellow writers ask you for feedback, reviews, close reading, affirmation, whatever. And there you are, suddenly out on the end of a very thin branch, trying to determine how best to respond.
Sometimes you get lucky. The stories you are asked to read are well-written, need only a few tweaks, show promise. The requester genuinely wants feedback.

Sometimes you get regimented. The Canadian Authors Association has a great process for critiquing, following careful rules established over years to provide the most information with the least hurt. Everyone plays along and everyone learns.

And sometimes, you are stuck, gawping, at some really inescapably horrid writing, over which you spot the hopeful eyes of the writer, begging you to find something, anything, encouraging to say.
Some people can’t write. They do things like forget the noun-verb-noun basics of sentences. They write vignettes and call them stories (been guilty of that myself). They write chocolate-box stories so ridden with cliche the sugar hurts your teeth and you long for a Thomas Kinkaid painting to cut the ache.

And it never fails. These people are the ones who are most persuaded of their writing skills. They argue, get hurt, stomp off when you ever so gently suggest a rewrite…or they send you hateful emails when you review their self-published books and don’t give 4 stars…

There are only a few folks I trust with giving me feedback on my stories. I recently had yet another bad experience with a critique group and it reminded me of why I am so picky.

And it made me long for a group of kindred spirit writers to talk with.

Check out “Story is a State of Mind”, the intensive program, if you’d like some useful and encouraging feedback. The course, by Sarah Selecky, is one of the most useful ones I’ve ever taken, and I’ve taken a lot of courses. I’m going to miss it, now that I’m done. Great feedback, charmingly given. Just what a critique should be. I’ve taken notes, for the next time some soft writer heart asks for advice.

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