Thursday, April 14, 2011

The Value of Critique--10 Things I've Learned


The Value of Critique
Missy Tippens


In talking about critique, I'm talking about having someone critique your work. I'm not talking about when your husband tells you your hair looks nice even though you know it doesn't, or when your daughter tells you the waist of your jeans sits too high. I mean, please, back in the day, a girl's waist was higher than a boy's! Nowadays...there's no difference. My daughter wears her jeans as low-slung as my boys. :) But I digress...


Today I finished going through two critiques of my manuscript (due on my editor's desk this Friday!). And their feedback was invaluable. My word count was low when I sent the book to them. Now, after incorporating their ideas, answering questions, filling in, and changing the black moment and ending (yes, I really did!), I've added 20 pages! And I LOVE the story. So much more than I did before.


As I finished re-writing the black moment today (note for readers: that's the moment when the hero and heroine think all is lost, that they'll never be together), I literally jumped up off the couch and yelled, "Oh, this is so good!" Now, before you think I'm bragging, let me say that I was probably delirious with fatigue. I'd worked for about10 hours straight by then. I was also thrilled to have had an idea strike. It was the perfect solution to the problems my critiquing buddies had found.


Here's what I learned during the polishing of this story:


1. Three heads is better than one. :)


2. We all need objective feedback from someone who's not invested in the writing of the story.


3. Even if you don't totally agree with something a critiquer suggest, you can always search for the underlying problem and fix it in another way.


4. There's no way to repay what I owe my cp's (critique partners)!


And about critiquing in general:


5. Don't blow off what a critiquer tells you. And I'm not talking contest judges here. I'm talking people you know and trust and give your work to. It doesn't mean you change everything, but it means you sure better consider it. (I guess this ties in to #3.)


6. If a critiquing relationship isn't working, then don't stick with it. Learn from it, handle it professionally, and move on. I'd also add to try to preserve the friendship if there was one before. Sometimes things just don't work out, and no one is to blame. Sometimes it just becomes time to move on to something else.


7. When you critique, give your honest feedback. If something isn't working, tell him/her. If you love something, put a smiley face so if the writer goes scissor-happy, she'll keep that part! :)


8. Don't critique if you're overly tired or if you're finding you're hating everything you're reading. Chances are, you're the problem! Put it away and come back when rested.


9. Three heads may be better than one. But 14 probably isn't. If you get too much feedback, you may drive yourself crazy and end up re-writing the same work over and over. I'd recommend no more than 3 or 4 in a critique group.


10. I figured saying I had 10 things to share sounded better than 9 for a title, so I'm reaching here... Oh, I know! Lay out your expectation ahead of time with a cp. If  you're at a point where you just need big picture feedback, then ask for that. If you want line by line, ask for that. If you want brainstorming, ask for that. It's like any good relationship, you have to state your needs and expectations.


I hope this helps! And if you're a reader (and not a writer), then I hope you can apply this to your career. :)


What do y'all think about critiques? And feel free to share frustrations over critiques of your hairstyle as well! :)


P.S. If you're in the area around Bowling Green, Kentucky, please come to the Southern Kentucky Book Fest on Saturday!! I'll be signing copies of A Family for Faith.


Missy

7 comments:

  1. Missy--this is a great post. And all you've said is true. Finding a great critique partner is like finding gold. They care enough about you and the story to tell you what's what-yet in a way that's nice. And they get you thinking on things. I love your BBM moment. I want to be THAT girl!
    Have fun at the Book Fest!

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  2. I just realized i didn't say in the post that you're one of my cp's! So thank you for all your help!!

    Thanks. I'll be sure to share photos of the Book Fest.

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  3. Hi Missy:

    I think that finding a great CP is like finding a great church. A lot depends on both of you.

    It always amazes me how people (dw) can shop for the right church. They go to church after church, Sunday after Sunday, trying to ascertain which church is closest to the truth. This assumes that the person searching is the font of all Christian wisdom. : ) OMG!

    I often smile and wonder what God thinks of all this church shopping. : )

    There are some people you should not critique. Just don’t do it. These are often people who you want to rewrite their work to the way you would have written it. This is just too hard to get by.

    Also critique areas are not equal. If someone remarks that they had to read a sentence twice to get its meaning, they are 100% correct. You have to fix it.

    If they say your alliteration does not work in a given sentence, that may have only a 5% certainty of being right.

    In fact, there is so much give and take that it might be easier to find a mate.

    Given how polished your last book was, I'd say keep your current CPs!

    Vince

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  4. Vince, you're so funny. :)

    I agree about the 100% thing! I mark that type thing all the time and am glad when someone marks it for me.

    Thanks for you nice words about my book! Yes, my cp's worked hard on it! And my editor, of course. :)

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  5. Great list Missy!
    And good luck in Kentucky!
    Have fun :)

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  6. Missy- I'm in total agreement with you and Lindi. I would not trade my cp because she's amazing and our personalities and styles fit together. I'm a detail person and she's a big picture person so our critiquing styles complement each other. A side benefit to a great cp is that whenever they learn something new, they teach it to you. So we can each focus on different aspects to learn, but in the end we both learn each concept. (Did that make sense?)

    Vince- you are 100% correct. Our cp group started with 4 and it's now down to two. But, the two of us actually make more progress than the group used to.

    Eva- I'm still dancing for ya!

    ReplyDelete
  7. Missy- I'm in total agreement with you and Lindi. I would not trade my cp because she's amazing and our personalities and styles fit together. I'm a detail person and she's a big picture person so our critiquing styles complement each other. A side benefit to a great cp is that whenever they learn something new, they teach it to you. So we can each focus on different aspects to learn, but in the end we both learn each concept. (Did that make sense?)

    Vince- you are 100% correct. Our cp group started with 4 and it's now down to two. But, the two of us actually make more progress than the group used to.

    Eva- I'm still dancing for ya!

    ReplyDelete