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Wednesday, February 6, 2008

What Not To Do In A Fiction Critique

Sorry no post yesterday - Sick day

Don’t pick on the little things.
It’s tempting to fall back on making comma coments or pointing out grammar gaffes. But there’s a difference between line editing and helping to shape content. Why pick on punctuation if the sentence may not make it to the final draft?

Don’t argue if someone is defensive.
They aren’t open to hearing your comment, so don’t waste time or energy in a debate. Other group members may agree with you and the writer might start to reconsider as comments pile up.

Don’t say the same thing everyone else just said.
If another writer as already pointed out the dialogue needs work or a word isn’t quite right, don’t cover the same territory in depth. My group uses “ditto” a lot to let the writer know when we agree with a previous comment. It is important to let them know you agree because it shows it isn’t just an individual opinion, but don’t beat it to death. Spend your time on what other people haven’t mentioned yet.

Don’t say things like “It doesn’t seem like you spent much time on this,” or “It seems like you’re having trouble with this section.”
Those comments are more about how they write than what they wrote. It’s like telling them they look like they lost weight when they know they haven’t dropped a pound. It doesn’t help them improve their writing, and they feel uncomfortable if the comment is totally off target – they spent a lot of time on it or really loved the section you aren’t fond of. Stick to content comments.

Don’t underestimate being on the outside of the writer’s head.
If you’re a new writer, you may be insecure in your critique opinions. But new writers are usually veteran readers. You can tell if you like a character, if something doesn’t make sense in the plotting, or if the writer forget to tell you a plot point he or she has understood for months but forgot to explain to the reader. Just pointing out problems helps.

You may not know how to fix it, but more experienced critique group members will likely have suggestions.


glasshut said...

Sick days are no excuse. There is no rest for the wicked Bwaaaa haaaaa haaaa

Tricia Grissom said...

LOL - Slave driver!

Keep up the great posts. It's nice to have someone post besides me - especially when the ebola virus visits.