Confessions of a Critique Grouper

I went to an intense critique session yesterday. It was my first time, with a rough draft, so they had lots to say. On the other hand, the two other ladies there had revised and revised and revised and still brought their stuff back for critique. It’s not that they weren’t moving forward, but they just wanted to make sure it was as good as it gets. One lady said she’d had it critiqued by this group and two others. I asked her if she didn’t worry she was going to edit the voice right out of it, but she didn’t seem concerned.

I don’t always use the comments I get from critique. Isn’t that terrible? I mean, people go through, give me their time, their feelings, and I can choose to use or ignore them.

I like big picture comments. I usually know what’s happening in a story (note the “usually”) but I don’t always get in on paper. I like when people point that out to me.

I like characterization comments, especially if a character is contradicting himself.

I even like when they correct spelling. Sometimes I just don’t see it.

However, I ignore suggestions on my dialogue, most of the time. I mean, people don’t always speak grammatically, right? And most of the time I can hear my characters in my head. One exception is when someone points out that a male character uses too many words. Grunts, they leave alone ;)

I don’t change sentence structure a lot of the time, unless there are a bunch of sentences that start with “She.” And I honestly don’t think one “It was…” sentence in a chapter is a killer.

I guess it comes down to trusting yourself, something I have a really hard time doing. But I can’t imagine revising a book with a critique group over…and over…and over.

11 comments:

Kelly Parra said...

I've never been to a critique session or group, although I've had a few pages critiqued at a meeting once. And when I enter contests, sometimes I don't even consider the comments unless I was having doubts myself. Since it's your work, it's your right to ignore what you choose.

I've always heard you have to go with your gut. If I had listened to every contest comment out there, I would have given up writing and maybe edited out my voice. I have my 2 CPs, who I cherish. I wouldn't have made such progress without them. =) Good luck with this wip!

Trish Milburn said...

My CPs have definitely helped me get better over the years, pointing out many things to change that I agreed with when they were pointed out to me. But you have to trust your gut sometimes even when it conflicts with what others say.

Joanna K. Moore said...

Mar, you went and didn't tell me!!?? The face to face one? I would have gone with you, except for the 16th birthday party going on here...which went well, btw...pool, pizza, slumber party, now everyone is home again and we have quiet restored. I am pooped. I watched Phantom of the Opera with them until one am, I am in love with Gerald Butler, and...where was I? Oh, yes. Mar, the crit group helped me a lot when I was struggling to de-cozify my mystery and turn it into the paranormal romantic mystery that it became. But you have to always weigh their advice. I generally tend to not make ANY changes until I've sat a couple of days with their suggestions. That's why when I come home from a face to face, I put their papers aside and I don't look at them until Tuesday or so. By then my head is cleared from the experience and I can look at their suggestions in a better light. A face to face group crit can feel like a gang-up if you go without being ready for it...but giving it a few days helps. My rule of thumb is, if several people see the same problem, it's something to pay attention to. If only one person notes something, I give it a quick look, but if I don't agree, I don't worry about it.

JoAnn

Michelle said...

CP's are so hard to find. Like you, I love "big picture" stuff. But you're right about those who edit their voice out. I think it's more important to keep writing new stuff than to obsess over old material.

Joanna K. Moore said...

Agreed, Michelle. You can only go over it so many times before I believe the life in the material can be extinguished.

This is also how some people end up with endlessly re-written first three chapters, but never go on to actually finish the book.

Mar, I need to correct my error from earlier...it's GERARD Butler, not Gerald. BTW, there's a site you'd probably like called www.GerardButler.net...it's got links to wallpapers, Mar...niiiice.

JoANn

Amie Stuart said...

I've had bad critting experiences so I won't let anyone I don't trust crit for me. And frankly an in person group scares me. we have one locally where they want you to *GASP* stand up and READ!

Yes, I am a weenie.

I ADORE my CP's...I have one big picture CP, one nitty, bust my butt and not let me be a slacker CP and one who does a bit of both as well as let me bounce plotting ideas off her.

Joanna K. Moore said...

Cece, at our crit group, the person to your left reads your work outloud. THAT is a humbling experience. :)

JoAnn

Bonnie Ferguson said...

I think it's good that you use only what you find helpful, Mary and that you trust yourself, even though it's difficult.

MaryF said...

Okay, first, on Gerard - JoAnn, did you see the counter on that website? I've been at least once a day for, oh, 400 days or so ;)

Second, wow, just got back from the Blanco River and I have a tuber burn - my legs all the way to my feet! OUCH!

Third, I have a couple of people I really trust to read my stuff, so mostly when I send stuff to critique, I'm looking for big picture stuff, or something specific. But I can't imagine someone working over and over again on the same thing. Can't it be TOO polished? And if you're sending it to different people, and they tell you different things and you do them, is it still your book?

Just a thought. Off to baby the sunburn.

Amie Stuart said...

Joann...I'll PASS! ACK!

But I can't imagine someone working over and over again on the same thing. Can't it be TOO polished?

Mary I can't either but here's a phenomenon I've noticed in the last two years. Not all writers want to be published. I mean REALLY REALLY want to be published. To that end they invoke stalling techniques.

1. Never finishing a WIP
2. Never editing a WIP
3. Editing a WIP unto death (including polishing something to death).
4. Pitching but neven sending in reqeusted work.

Some people just want to BE writers. Matter of fact I have a writer friend who's ten years younger than me and just PHENOMENAL, but she freely admits she has no desire to be published.
Some people just want to SAY they're writers. This can include joining organizations like the RWA and being active participants, holding office, volunteering their services to the local chapter etc. whether they actually write anything or not! Because of course, volunteering and/or holding office (and thus being busy) can excuse them from writing.

But not everyone wants to be a PUBLISHED WRITER.

Sory for writing a book *g*. MaryI hope ya'll had a great time and I'm so jealous! Tubing! Waaaaaaaaaaa Take care of that sunburn.

MaryF said...

Cece, you hit on an interesting topic. When I joined SARA, I joined with another girl that I met in a community ed class. She is funny and talented and she quit working as a lawyer to become a romance novelist. A couple of years later she had her book requested by Lauren McKenna. At that time she had a baby girl, and I would babysit her daughter once a week so she could write. Do you know, that was 5 years ago and SHE HASN'T FINISHED the book yet? OMG. I can't imagine letting that possibility pass me by. I know a couple of published writers that are working on the same book over and over. One had a lot of success early in her career - she sold her first book. Another struggled with her career, so she may just not be able to get back on that painful path.

I guess if everyone was as driven as I am, I'd have a lot more competition!

As for the tubing, it was a lot of fun, and my legs don't hurt as bad today. It's my shoulders today. Should fade fast, though.

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