Trisha Faye is back today for the third time as a guest contributor on Write Naked. In case you missed her previous guest posts, Trisha has enlightened subscribers and visitors with how to earn money from past clips, and interviewed notable freelancer Mridu Khullar Relph.
In her guest post today, Trisha shares advice on how to make the most of your critique group, like how to use the ‘sandwich method’ when delivering critiques. After you read her insights below, you might want to check out an earlier post I wrote on critiquing critique groups.
6 Helpful Tips for Critique Groups
By Trisha Faye
The mention of critique groups often casts a look of horror across an author’s face. I know. I used to be one of those dismayed writers. I was so nervous about having my writing examined that I attended my writing group for a year – if not longer – before I had the courage to share.
The benefits of a good critique group are immeasurable. Encouragement, comradery, exposure to varied styles and subjects, and the ability to brainstorm on plot points are all pluses. The grand prize is how the critiques improve your writing.
The fears? Rudeness or lack of courtesy can offend. A scathing critique can send us home in tears. While these instances are rare, it’s good to keep in mind that with critique groups, as in day-to-day life, it’s not the specific instances that are important. It’s the choices we make, our attitude, and how we react to a critique that determines how it will impact our writing.
If you’re new to critique groups (or even if you’re not) here are some tips to get the most from your group.
- Appreciate your group’s strengths and diversity. Each member has different strengths that help refine and polish our writing. One sees repeated words. Another is a grammar expert. Someone else will point out storytelling gaps, point of view issues, or continuity problems. Every member becomes an asset in your writer’s arsenal.
- Be attentive to all critiques, not just your own. I always learn listening to other critiques. I see where I’m guilty of the same weaknesses. When it’s pointed out that someone has used ‘just’, ‘but’, or ‘and’ too frequently, I take a big gulp because I know those words are scattered about in my own prose. When I read a member’s magical metaphors, I look closer to see how I can learn from their strengths to improve my own writing.
- Create a thick skin; don’t take it personally. This is one of the hardest lessons to implement. It’s crushing to hear that our writing isn’t as wonderful or polished as we’d envisioned. A critique isn’t a personal attack. It’s simply other writers pointing out weak areas – resulting in a stronger, more cohesive piece. Many critique groups take extra care to be kind in their assessment, often using a method of sandwiching the negatives in-between two positives.
- Don’t defend, don’t make excuses. It’s human nature to want to defend our precious projects. But, a defensive attitude can block us from hearing a piece of necessary advice. Instead of defending, simply say ‘Thank you for your feedback’ and either accept – or ignore – the recommendation.
- Everyone doesn’t always agree. Someone will love a certain feature. Someone else may dislike the very same thing, and advise getting rid of it. When several members agree on the same issue, take note of it. But, if there are conflicting viewpoints, remember – you are the author and the final decisions are yours.
- Focus on the solutions. While some feedback may sting, the valuable part is in the solutions you employ to resolve problem areas. In one of the stories I presented a few meetings ago, I was so involved with the character, her emotions, and her present situation that I thought I’d imparted it all in my story. I hadn’t. What was in my head didn’t translate to my written words. Until I heard that, I was clueless. Now that I knew, I could focus on resolving the issue in my story.
What works, what doesn’t work, and how to fix it are the pieces you go home with. The feedback you get from a critique group, coupled with your own optimistic attitude towards the process, provides an education that you won’t find in any other comparable setting.
After years of dreading critiques in her writing groups, Trisha Faye learned to love them when she saw how their feedback improved her writing. Using the lessons from her writing group critiques, she’s branched out from articles and blogs, to books, including two anthologies she recently compiled; In Celebration of Sisters and In Celebration of Mothers. When she’s not working on book projects, she’s writing stories about people from the past, Vintage Daze Short Stories, or her favorite pastime – playing with cats. Find her on Facebook, Twitter @texastrishafaye, Instagram @faye_trisha.