Aug. 2, 2020: The Power of Critiques
Critique: The detailed analysis and assessment of something, especially a literary work.
That is the official definition of the word critique. But critiques are so much more.
You cannot grow as a writer if you do not have your writing critiqued. If you never get feedback on your craft, you will never be able to improve. All writers know that. The problem is that it is uncomfortable, hard, and sometimes painful, to have our writing critiqued.
All critiques though, are not the same. There are different types of critiques, done by different types of people, at different stages in the writing process. All are valuable. All are necessary. And all help us grow. The feedback we receive from each one, also helps to strengthen the piece of writing or the manuscript.
Types of critiques and what they do:
- Fellow Writers:
These are your writing friends. They are your peers, your colleagues. Perhaps they are part of a formal writing group to which you belong, or perhaps part of an informal tribe you have formed. It may be one writer you trust, or it may be a large group. But these are the people you share your drafts with. It may be snippets of writing or larger chunks, but you are routinely sharing writing with these critiquers. This happens during the early drafting stages of the writing process, and allows you to really hone in on aspects of the writing craft. Some times your critique may have a specific focus, for example, “Does my dialogue sound authentic?”, or “Is my tense consistent?”. These types of critiques allow you to really develop your writing skills.
- Potential Readers:
Sometimes called Beta Readers, these are the people who read and critique an entire piece of work. This comes after you have drafted, revised, and revised, and revised and edited. Now you need to understand how a reader will view your work. These may be people you know, or they may not be. They may be book bloggers, or fellow authors. They are usually people who read your genre, or in the case of being a children’s book author, they are people who read and understand children’s literature- teachers, parents, librarians. The feedback from these critiquers is essential in getting your manuscript ready to submit for publication. Before you send it to agents, you need to be sure readers would enjoy it. Use the feedback from these critiquers to revise the manuscript yet again! Fill in those plot gaps. Rework that slow area of the story. Add more variety to your descriptions.
Agents, editors, publishers. These are the professionals within the field of publishing and a critique of this sort is extremely valuable. These sorts of critiques happen through writing conferences, writing contests, and reputable professional writing organizations. There is usually a cost associated with these, but it is well worth it. This type of critique is only for pieces of writing that you feel, at this point, are the best you can make the. You have revised and edited and polished already. The insight these professionals can give you at this point can be instrumental in helping you to know if this piece of writing is ready for publication. They share their impressions of the story, their observations of the writing itself, and some advice for next steps.
Remember that critiques are only as powerful as the way we use the information. Some critiquers are gentle with our feelings and some may not be, but we need to not take the assessments of our writing personal. As hard as it is to hear that your story “is boring”, if we realize that the critique really means we need more conflict, it then gives us a place to start revising to make the story better.
So as you continue to work on your writing projects, be sure that regular critiques are part of your process.