Thursday, October 14, 2010

The Gift That Keeps On Giving

In the last few weeks, I’ve been going over ways of ‘Killing Time Between Revisions…Productively.
So far I’ve used this time to :


And today I wanted to talk about an absolutely fabulous way of helping time go by:

Critiquing.

First of all, I’m always honored whenever someone asks me to take a look at their work.  It means they trust me and value my opinion, and in some way- think I know what the hell I’m doing.  Which is a plus.
Also- Critiquing other people’s writing is the gift that keeps on giving because it’s a great way to hone your own critical eye and make it easier to see common mistakes in your work.
A few tips I try to use-

 I make sure I know exactly what kind of feeback the writer is looking for.  

By the time I’m getting a draft of someone’s work, they probably are more worried about the big picture- plot, characterization, and pacing issues.  If I see something that worded awkwardly or a misused or mis-spelled word, I will point it out, of course- but I never pick apart a piece in a line-editing sort of way unless the person is concerned about a certain passage and asks me to do just that.  Nothing is more discouraging than having every sentence questioned and picked apart all while the big issues are mearly skimmed over-   (its like, when I tried to wash my dad’s guitar with toilet paper.  The good intentions were there, but in the end, the guitar definitely didn’t shine. )

I set aside time where I can truly focus on the piece. 

I don’t like trying to critique while working on my own stuff or reading a different book.  I treat each project like I’m a consumer- sitting down to read a new book all the while keeping in mind everything I’ve learned about how agents work, and the craft of writing to help make the project better.

 I record any thoughts or comments in the side bar but also give an ‘overall’ review of the project.  

The overall focuses on the biggest things mentioned above while the notes are a great way to relate back to the writer what bits we enjoyed, what parts were confusing or awkwardly worded, where the voice was off, or where the pacing lagged.  Personally, I devour the comments in the side bar as soon as someone sends me my work back and they really help me get a feel for how they liked (or didn’t like) the book.

There are tons of great sites with advice on how to be a better beta.  Agent Mary Kole wrote a great article on what a great critique group or parner means.  And writer’s social networks are a great way to meet other writers and find beta readers.

31 comments:

Laura Pauling said...

Critiquing is a great way to pass the time. I always learn from critiquing and it's nice to focus on something I haven't written and it's nice to help out a friend. It's def. part of the writing world!

L. Diane Wolfe said...

I'm always nervous about dcritiquing someone else's work!

And you have an award at my blog today!

India Drummond said...

I have learned more from critiquing other people's work than I have from receiving critiques from others. I think this is because it has taught me how to look at my work through new eyes and by seeing problems in other people's writing, I can also now find those problems in my own writing.

Plus it's really good karma. :)

Old Kitty said...

These are great points to consider when critiquing, thank you!!

I'm a willing reader rather than a proper critiquer only because when I have my work professionally critiqued I see how it's such a skill!!! The critiquer finds the best out of the piece and suggests so many ways to improve and this is done in such a way that the writer is encouraged rather than disheartened.

I'm too in awe of anyone's work to be of any use!

Take care
x

Jen Daiker said...

What great advice!! When I start querying I'll remember critiquing as a great way!! Who would have thought how much it would not only benefit others but YOU as well!!!

You're so smart! :)

Melissa Gill said...

That sounds like an great way to pass the time between reviews. Great suggestions

Matthew Rush said...

I love reading other writer's unfinished work and you're right, it is a great way to both pass the time and hone your craft. Unfortunately with my crit group, my job, my family and my own WIP I only have time to read the pages of my crit group. I do do queries from time to time, but those are short.

Christine said...

Love the attention you give to you CPs. I try to do the same for my critique partners. Great post!

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I really don't feel I'd be a qualified critique partner. I guess I'll find out one day, though.

Joanna St. James said...

Thanx 4 d linx I shall go and check them out tout de suite

Melody said...

Thank you, thank you, thank you, Katie!!

I just agreed to beta someone's work and was really, really nervous because I'd never done that before. (I'm great at spelling/grammar critiques, but plot? Totally new territory for me.) Your post gave me some guidelines to follow, and I'm so appreciative!

Colene Murphy said...

awesome advice! I bet you are a great person to have go over someones work.

Hart Johnson said...

TOTALLY with you. I critiqued three books in July and August (I was still writing a little for the first, but mostly while I was doing the 'sterile clean' (just making it clean enough I could see what I had) and i swear it has put me in the right frame of mind for editing. I editing my cozy and think that went really well, and now am editing another work. I learn SO MUCH from critiquing, but possibly more important, get a push back so I can be more objective with my own stuff.

Carolyn V. said...

You cleaned your Dad's guitar with t-p? That is priceless!

I've learned that critiquing is a two way street, what I put into someone's work helps me grow as a writer. It's awesome. =)

LTM said...

you are doing super good work! And these points are right on! Most important, I think... oh, they're all important, but it is good to know what the other person is expecting...

press on~ :o)

DLCurran said...

Excellent points to remember when doing crits... I'm usually pretty nervous doing crits. I want to do a good job, but I don't want to discourage anyone. Fine line... thanks for sharing your method - it's close to mine so I'll take it that I'm at least on the right track! :)

Lenny Lee! said...

hi miss katie! wow that a lot of good stuff for being a good critiquer. me and miss sharon are critique partners. i did one of her kids books and now shes got one of my books she doing for me. that was my first time and i got some help from one of my brother so i could do a real good job on it. i like being a critiquer.
...hugs from lanny

Lindsay (a.k.a Isabella) said...

I do love critiquing. I agree that it helps to hone your own skills, and I always learn something from other writers. That said, I'm always nervous sending my CP's/Beta my thoughts back. lol.

Shannon O'Donnell said...

Wonderful! Those are great tips, Katie. This is what I'm doing right now as a way to "kill waiting time". :-)

Lisa Potts said...

Critiquing makes you a better writer, without question. I do have a tendency to line edit as well as give an overall picture. I normally end up apologizing for this up front ; )

Jemi Fraser said...

Great advice. It's so important to know what the writer really wants! :)

Nicole Zoltack said...

I love to critique. It helps the other author as well as myself. I see their mistakes and try not to make them in my own writing. Great post!

Meredith said...

These are such great tips! Critiquing definitely helps me critique my own writing. Plus, I feel more like a serious writer when I have a critique partner :)

notesfromnadir said...

You definitely show a great understanding in how to properly critique a work. I guess you learned your lesson from cleaning that guitar! :) But it's so important to see each work as a consumer would because that's the ultimate aim of any author -- to have many, many consumers reading his or her work.

Stina Lindenblatt said...

LOL. I'm a multi-tasker. I'll crit/beta read, read a novel, and work on my ms (just not exactly at the same time). But if a ms really grabs my attention, the other things take a backseat. ;)

WritingNut said...

These are great tips. Thanks so much for sharing :)

I'm off to visit those sites you linked... again, I think I'm getting way ahead of myself, but oh well ;)

Kelly Dexter said...

I've never been a beta, but since I like editing so much, I have a feeling I'd enjoy it. It does sound like a gift that goes both ways.

Ricky Bush said...

After teaching journalism and English for a looonnngg time, I just can't get into a critiquing mode. Feels to much like grading papers. Ain't doin' that no more. Uh..er..don't critique this.

Summer Ross said...

This was a great post! I can fully see where you are coming from. When crit other peoples work I have a notebook, pen, and an outline I made for myself that way I remember to do the little and big stuff.

Grammy said...

Hi, It is interesting to read about critiquing and queries. Are queries letters that an author writes to the publisher about his own work? Having never written and submitted a piece for publication, I know next to nothing about it, except what I have been learning from reading author's blogs.
Ruby

Susan Fields said...

Great tips! An author I beta'd for recently sent a list of what kind of feedback she was looking for with the ms, and I found that very helpful in forming my critique.

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