The Critique, Part Two

Part one is found here.

Some thoughts about the other side of the critiquing partnership…

Yes, I did write ‘partnership’. A critique is not the same as a review. It’s serious business. It implies that the one seeking the critique recognizes that their work isn’t perfect and wants to improve on it. If all you are looking for is someone to tell you how clever you are and how you’ve written the best book/story/poem/whatever that mankind has ever seen in the entire history of the planet Earth, you’re not looking for a critique. Give your story to Aunt Jane or Granny Sue. They’ll be happy to do that for you.

If you view the words that you’ve written as sacrosanct, you need to consider what your goals are as a writer. Are you happy with where you’re at? Do you have hopes of getting published? Did you know that even multi-published authors have editors? No matter how good you believe you are, there’s room for improvement. If you don’t believe that, don’t bother having someone critique your work. It’ll save someone else the aggravation of having to deal with you. Submit your work as-is, and see how many “Not right for me” rejection letters you get.

If, however, you’re serious about your craft, and you want to make your work the best it can be, getting it critiqued is highly recommended. Is there a local writers group you can join? If not, is there an online group you can join? You will be expected to critique other people’s work as well as getting your work critiqued, which will offer you valuable insights into what works and what doesn’t.

If there are no groups that you want to join, is there someone you know who is good with English who might be willing to critique your work? A working knowledge of the English language, of grammar and spelling, is an invaluable tool, so choose wisely. Pick someone who isn’t intimately concerned with your emotional well-being. You’re more likely to get an honest appraisal of your work.

Will you like everything your critiquer says? Probably not. It’s human nature. We do our best, and because we’re imperfect, our work is imperfect. We don’t see the flaws ourselves when we’re so close to it. And it’s natural to resent it when someone tells us we’ve done something the wrong way. However, try setting the critique aside after the first read, get a couple of days away from it, and then read it again. What was said will probably make more sense to you. As time goes by, you’ll learn to recognize your usual mistakes and correct them before sending future work off to be critiqued.

Will everything that your critiquer says be something that you’ll want to apply? Again, probably not, although it would be good to give each point some serious thought. Sometimes other people simply dislike words that you may have used, and their personal tastes might lead them to ask you to change those words. Are they the words you meant to use, or would the others be better? Try setting aside your ego as you go through the critique to see which suggestions you’ll apply. Do you have a love of long and complicated sentences? Or of big words? The term ‘purple prose’ is defined as prose that is too elaborate. This is not a writing sin you want to be guilty of.

Writing is not so much a destination as it is a journey. You will never reach perfection, but a good critiquer will help you get as close as you can. You will never stop learning, but the better you get, the more satisfying it will become. Don’t give it up just because, at the beginning, you found out there was actual work involved.

And don’t forget to thank your critiquer. You’ve been given a gift of someone else’s time and attention, with the aim of improving your craft. This was not something they had to do, and should never be taken for granted.

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