Friday, March 12, 2010

Confusing Me Will Only Make Me Better

Yesterday, I mentioned that I have a chapter currently up for review on Critique For those of you that are not familiar with this site, it is a free website where writers can post their work for others to review. You earn points for reviewing other people’s chapters or short stories and then use those points to post your own work. It’s a great place to get many critiques on individual chapters in a short amount of time. Your pages are up for one week and can be critiqued by as many as six critiques as a newbie, and an unlimited amount as you move out of that queue. On average, I normally receive about 5 or 6.

What I find the most interesting is the range of those critiques, which is true with all critique groups. Each of them provides great insight, and what I can take from them is invaluable. I have received four different critiques so far, but they are so varied from each other that they remind me of this season of American Idol.

RANDY: Dog, that was a hot one right there! I’m blown away. (Stand up, chair falls over)

ELLEN: That was great. Not what I would have done. Maybe exactly the same, but completely different. But I like you. (Awkwardly looks to Kara.)

KARA: I expected a little more, but I think it is a 100% improvement from before. (Cuddles up closer to Simon.) But you can do better. (Pushes Simon away.)

SIMON: Look, that was complete rubbish. I don’t know what I prayed for more—for it to end or for a power outage.

(Ok, I didn’t get any Simon’s. Thank goodness!! But I have in the past, and when I first started. I’m still traumatized. Haha.)

What is even funnier is that the site has a wonderful feature that allows you to combine all of the inline critiques into one document. Fantastic. Ok, that’s not the funny part. The funny part is that there was one line in particular that all four critiquers commented on. Two absolutely loved it with multiple exclamation marks, and the other two “didn’t get it” and it “just wasn’t working for me, dog.” That last one is not really a quote from the site. But you get the idea.

So what do you do?

--There are some things where they all pointed out the exact same thing. That’s easy – fix it.

--If one person points something out that no one else has ever touched on, I listen with both ears. I mull it over and see if there is validity to it.

--Split 50/50 – I have to follow my gut, listening to the arguments from both sides, and do what I think is right for my story.

--A mixed review? You can’t always just go with majority. Each review is slightly weighted. Do they read the genre; what is their experience; how far down the path are they; do they “get” my quirkiness? (Some people just don’t, and that’s ok.) But never discard based on any of those facts nor use them to just do whatever the heck you want. You have to listen, but the application of these critiques has to be well thought out.

--Lastly, don’t touch anything until it’s all had time to simmer. What may have earned an eye roll when you first read it – may turn out to be the best piece of advice you receive.

What may come from these critiques could be simple line edits (misplaced question mark that everybody except me caught) or major rewrites. Time will tell. I will tell you what I have learned so far--this is getting much closer to finished. Maybe just one more round. :-)

So, what do you do when you get conflicting critiques? What type of critique group are you in?


  1. What a fantastic post. I always get confused with what to do when I get confilicting critiques. This will help me. Thanks.

  2. Well, there's some stuff I agree with as soon as I see it - even if only one person mentions it. I can just change that, but so far I've been doing the rewrites all at once, after they all come in.

    When I feel sure the other person is wrong I try to put into words exactly why they are wrong. I don't actually argue with them, which never helps, but I try and explain it to myself. If it makes sense I do it my way.

    If I don't see exactly why a change is needed but it doesn't bother me much, I usually do it.

    If everyone agrees there is a problem in the same place I usually do something, but not necessarily what everyone is suggesting.

  3. I'm kinda like David above. Maybe I'm arrogant in my writing, but I weigh everything with what feels right for my concept.

    But I do "listen with both ears", and an open mind. Because, I miss things; simple stuff sometimes. And not everyone "gets" what I'm writing about. They can't believe people would actually choose to live that way, and want some fluff to ease the horror.

    Easing the horror I can do to a point, but never with fluff.

    Anyway; I think you've got it right Aj. Listen, bounce ideas off others - or the critter if they're available - and eventually make your own decision.

    Love the post. I've heard of Critique Circle; but I prefer to get to know a fellow author before subjecting my self esteem to someone I don't know. I am a member of a FtF writers group - lovely bunch of people - and have gotten around the blogs enough to find people who I trust to give an honest critique, even if if differs with my initial concept.


  4. I couldn't find the f2f website on google.

    What? Oh.

  5. I still struggle with the fine line of having confidence that I know what's best for my story and good old fashioned stubbornness. I normally figure it out in the end, but it takes me a little while to get there. :-)

    Ryan-I'm glad you can take something from the post, but read the others' comments as well - they are much wiser than me. :-) I'm still figuring this stuff out. That's why I put the huge disclaimer at the top - NEWBIE. haha.

    David-I really like the way you critique. You ask questions that make me ask myself questions - and that's crucial. It's good that you lined out your method of response to a critique - since next it will be my turn. Muhahaha! lol

    Donna- I'd love to trade stories with you one day. I like your style and voice. If you ever need another crit partner, keep me in mind.

    And back to David-that's funny. I had to google it. And, then I got it. haha

    I don't know if I could do a face to face critique group. My face is very transparent. At least online, I can have my reaction and no one's the wiser. :-)

  6. I would love to trade critiques with you Aj! I'm working on some changes from my last partner, and when I get them integrated, I'll let you know and see if you're still interested. Thanks.


  7. Yes, of course, AJ. I'm basically a newbie too, so I always take whatever I can from what I read. Sometimes I decide if something works for me or not. For example, the Snowflake Method. Not my style.

  8. AJ, we all struggle with having the confidence to stand up for our work sometimes. As you continue to write and learn, you'll be able to move forward with confidence to determine which critique feedback is useful and which is not.

    To answer your question, I am currently not in a critique group. Sadly, I moved recently and hade to part ways to part ways with my beloved group. After I'm done with this round of edits on my WIP, I am going to try my luck as finding an online group.

  9. I don't have time for critiquing anymore however if a trusted friend asks me to read I will and vice versa. Usually when I am stuck and need a fresh eye.

    But I agree, the key is to let it sit for a few days and then go with your spirit. But you have to train yourself to recognize the still small voice amidst all the chatter.