To Critique

Sometimes the deadlines just make whooshing sounds as they go by. I had a personal goal to try to get the notes made on a story for a critique partner today. I’m not sure I’m going to make it because my schedule keeps changing. [Seriously, who would drive 4 hours away for the weekend and not leave at naptime if given the choice with a rowdy toddler? However, naptime is generally when I catch up with all my personal goals.]

I read the story and enjoyed it. I marked a bunch of places where I want to make more comments. I’m close, but I’m also afraid if I don’t finish it before I leave for the weekend that I won’t work on it when I’m away, and it’s always good to give it back to someone on a weekend, especially if that other person has a day job.

On the other hand, I really don’t want to rush it. I want to take some good time to dig into the story and tear it apart the best I can to help the author make it awesome. That does take time. It really help that I’ve marked the places to comment, but on the overall I keep losing my train of thought. No excuses there – it’s an off week around my house and I’m doing good for what I’ve managed for the week.

Just don’t check it against my to-do list. That thing always spirals out of control with the number of things that need to be done. It’s like that old saying, “Man may work from sun to sun, but a woman’s work is never done.” Not that it’s necessarily man’s work versus woman’s work, but somehow the domestic chores are never completed.

Probably because they get in the way of the writing.

I’m sure that’s not true for every household. Not everyone is a writer tucked away masquerading as a housewife. (Or not, I have too many part-time jobs for that as discussed previously.) But there’s always something.

I’d much rather critique a story than do the dishes, which is why my sink is piled high again. And while I catch up with them, I’ll be trying to get my larger comments in order to type in before I leave, if I get a chance.

Sometimes it amazes me how many ways we try to critique stories. Most of the groups I have attended take the position of reading the piece aloud, or part of the piece during each meeting, and then taking notes or simply remembering the parts to critique. The turnaround is immediate and there is often little time to think. It took me a long time to get accustomed to the process, and listening actively for that amount of time can be a challenge.

I’ve also had trouble not grimacing when someone makes up a word like “scramblingly.”

Over time, I have learned a bit more from dealing with people online for critiques. Somehow the written word comes through very well and there is plenty of time to figure out exactly the parts that need to be tweaked. It’s also easier to take larger chunks at a time without worrying as much about the time requirement for the room.

There are groups out there who hand out pages each meeting, take them home, and discuss them at the next meeting. I haven’t been part of that to see how it works, except for the Summer Writing Festival, but I’d like to see more of that in action. The other issue with some of that is finding people who are good at your genre and also local in geography. The in-person group I attend now has very little experience in speculative fiction, as well as a few other things like poetry and children’s literature.

What do you do to critique? How do you manage to get around the daily obstacles to get it done? Is it in person? Is it a group? Do you find people online? How have you worked with others within your genre and outside it to make the best of the criticism you receive?

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1 Comment

  1. 26 August 2011 at 15:04

    I have only critiqued short works and poems but I find the best way it to sit down and commit to finishing certain sections at a time. I see it as an assignment otherwise I just do not do it!


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