Chicken Soup and the Critique Mystique!
Win a free copy of “Chicken Soup for the Soul It’s Christmas!” My story, Christmas in Texas, is published in this anthology. Just leave a comment below and I’ll put your name in the hat. There are two copies up for grabs. The giveaway will run this week and next, and I’ll announce the winners here on October 2nd. Good luck!
Someone asked me a few weeks ago what I consider to be one of the most important steps to improving as a writer. There were any number of things I might have said had I responded on the fly—any and all of which are true—but when I took the time to ponder the question and look at it from different angles, I chose . . . Critiques.
Questions like this one do not have a single correct answer, and the response one receives will be shaded (and jaded) depending on the author herself and where she is in her individual journey.
So why did I light on critiques as being so important to the (my) process? The learning factor. Having my work critiqued by other writers whose opinions I trust, and taking the time to read their work and offer my critique to them, has been the most consistent learning tool in my arsenal. I’ve had more “aha” moments through the critiquing process (both giving and receiving) than I can count.
See, I can read books about writing, take workshops, attend conferences, read trade mags, and write until my eyes cross (in fact, I do all of these things), but critiquing is unique because through the process of giving and receiving critiques I’ve discovered holes and blunders in my own writing, and I’ve learned the things I do well. I’ve picked out the mistakes of others and been blown away by the awesomeness of their writing, often at the same time.
There is no magic pen. There is work and there is more work, but in the company of like-minded people willing to say, “Yeah, that kinda sucks,” or “OMG I loved that!” the learningis invaluable . . . and learning means improving . . . and improving means getting closer to meeting one’s personal goals, whatever those may be. And that’s always a good thing.
Not everyone can handle the honesty that good critiquing requires, and this is true no matter which side of the table you’re on. If you’re giving a critique, the positives are easy to relay; the negatives, not so much. And when on the receiving end, you have to keep an open mind and accept that the words you love may not be as show-stopping as you thought them to be when you penned them.
If you trust your partner—and in writing as in love, you should never have a partner you don’t trust—then you know the advice you receive will be worth listening to even if you choose not to act on it. At the end of the day, the words written are yours, the story belongs to you, and you have the power to keep it, tweak it, reshape it, or throw it away. You have the power, buttercup. But the feedback you will receive from a trusted critique partner will boost your power because critiques allow us to view our work through the eyes of another. Critiques give us a different lens, a different angle, than we are able to achieve all alone by the glow of a laptop.
And do not underestimate what you will learn by critiquing the work of another author. We writers are sponges, all of us, and we soak up the good and the bad. Take the good and paint it with your own colors; take the bad and use it to ferret out similar weaknesses in your own work. Your partner(s) will do the same. The result will be better, more informed and infused writing.
Also, we writers are a crazy fun bunch, and critiquing gives us the excuse . . . er. . . opportunity, to hang out with members of our tribe. Trust me, buttercup, it’s a win-win.
How would you answer the question? Of all the steps we can take to improve as writers (aside from the act of writing itself) which do you think are the most important? Which has been the most beneficial to you?
See you next week for the naked truth about . . . ??
Have a great week y’all!