Awhile back, I posted about when it might be time to find a critique group. Today I thought I'd take a look at a few things that will help you once you've decided to take the plunge.
Making the decision to become a stronger writer
Taking the leap to get your worked critiqued is a big step. Many people are worried about what the process is like, how they’ll be able to tell good advice from bad, and what they’ll do if other writers shred their work or worse.
The first time you offer your work to another person is hard. You don’t want them to love it so much they think it’s perfect, because you know it’s not. Not that you want them to hate it either, because then you’ll feel that your writing is utterly hopeless and why try.
What most writers want is the validation that the story has potential—hopefully great potential. What they need is some ideas on how to take it to the next level.
There are a few things that you can do to prepare yourself for the rigors of critiques:
1) Define your goals
What are you hoping to get out of this experience? If it’s to improve your writing skills and your story, you must be willing to keep your mind open and put your ego in the refrigerator for awhile. Listening to what others have to say, good and bad, is they key to getting the most out of the critique process. In the end you may not agree, but you must be willing to take what is given to you and see it for what it is: one person’s honest opinion on how you can improve.
2) Take emotion out of the picture
I have received close to 1000 critiques and some of them can still be tough to take. Before you read what someone has to say about your work, tell yourself it’s okay if they don’t think it’s perfect. Remind yourself that you do need help and want to improve.
If you find yourself getting upset as you read feedback, walk away. Do something else for a few moments, or take as long as you need to get back into a frame of mind where you can look at the critique at face value. Remember, someone took time from their own writing to try to help offer insight. Strip away the words that hurt and look at the underlying comment. Often the pain is caused because a small part of us knows that the critter has made a valid point.
3) Say thank you
Depending on the length of the piece being critiqued and the depth of the feedback, someone has spent anywhere from 30 minutes to several hours in an effort to help you get your writing to the next level. Always be gracious and offer thanks, even if you don’t agree with everything being said, or felt the tone could have been a bit more encouraging and kind.
4) Give critiques that you yourself would like to receive
Critiquing is two fold: giving and receiving. Many people want critiques because they need fresh eyes and suggestions on their own work, but it is through giving critiques to others that real writing/editing improvement occurs. Put as much effort, honesty and encouragement into the critiques that you write as you hope to have in return. The effort you give encourages others to go the extra mile in return for you.
5) Be honest
Honesty is the best thing that you can hope for in a crit and the most valuable thing you can offer yourself. It shows your level of commitment to improving as a writer and encouraging others to improve. Remember though, honesty is not an excuse to be overly brutal in your assessments. People are much more likely to consider your advice when your critiques show respect for the writer, and you provide feedback not just in the areas needing improvement, but also mentioning what you really enjoyed about the story.