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Wednesday, February 4, 2009

What's Up Wednesday

I'm still in mourning over my laptop. Sigh. I sure hope it can be fixed. I'm supposed to go on a writing retreat at the end of this month and there wouldn't be much point without my computer. Though lazing around at a beach house with my writing friends and taking long walks on a secluded Oregon beach wouldn't be such a bad thing. I could read a book. Wow, what a concept! I haven't read a book in months! And my TBR pile is teetering.

Speaking of writing friends, my online critique group "meets" the first and fifteenth of every month. We meet via email, and the meeting consists of submitting chapters of our WIPs to each other. Most of us have been in this group for a long time, like over ten years, though we just brought a couple of excellent writers onboard to freshen things up. It's been great. Their stuff is fantastic!

One of the ongoing problems I have with my group is when someone says "...you need to remind us about thus and so. And you need to explain XYZ." These criticisms have caused me to take on the bad habit of repeating myself more often than necessary, and over-explaining. My crit partners mean well, but what happens when you're submitting a novel chapter by chapter is that they forget information from something they haven't read for a while. Crit partners go on vacation, take a break from the group, or simply have swiss cheese memories. Sometimes they skip reading your stuff for months, then come back with suggestions for reminders and explanations. Ugh.

This means it's up to me to determine whether or not I should follow those suggestions. In my early writing days, I'd always follow this advice, only to be told later by someone reading the book for the first time that I'm repeating myself and over explaining things. I'm trying to break myself of the habit, but after ten years of beating it into me, it hasn't been easy.

So what I've learned to do is flag those areas remarked upon by two of my crit buddies (it's always these same two writers, the others never mention reminders or the need for repeating details) and then when I'm done with the manuscript, I can determine if repetition and extra explanation is a warranted. Fresh beta readers help with this, too.

Are you in a critique group? What do you see as the pros and cons of critique? What's the worst advice you've ever received from a critique partner?

7 comments:

Sharla said...

I would love to have a critique group. I have no writer people in my real life, the web is all I have for that. I wish I knew other writers in person!

Creative A said...

I had a similar problem with one critique partner. I was working like nuts to get this short story ready for a contest, and my partner was into it. We went through that thing again and again. But she had a slant for the melodramatic. After a couple rounds, I lost my sense for what was melodramatic and what wasn't.

Sure enough, a couple months later, I came back to the story and was shocked at all the melodrama.

This taught me an interesting lesson. Readers are great, but you need to identify their style and weed it out from their comments.

Anywho, I'm not sure if that's what you asked, exactly, but there you go :)
-CA

Karen Duvall said...

Sharla, crit groups can be great if you know how to work with them. As for knowing writers in person, go to writers conference where you'll meet bunches! I met one of my best friends at a writers conference fifteen years ago.

Karen Duvall said...

Creative A, any kind of input regarding crit groups or partners is perfect. You're right, it's easy to get caught up in someone else's vision for your work. Staying objective is a horrific challenge.

bryngreenwood said...

In my crit group this is known as "Disclaimer #1." As in, "You need to explain X, but this may be a Disclaimer #1," because we don't remember if perhaps it was explained chapters ago.

Typically, the only bad advice I ever get are from critters who want to change my characters. People who say, "This character should be more like this," or "This character would do this." Often because they're choosing to ignore the things I've already revealed about the character.

Of course, even good critiques can be maddening when they're contradictory. Two of my regular readers disagree with each other about 90% of the time. They don't even know each other, but they're suggestions are usually polar opposites. *sigh*

Merc said...

I use Critique Circle as my only crit group, though I've been in and out of Critters (depending on time) as well.

What I like about my core group on CC is that we understand each other and can be completely honest and blunt when need be about when something is working or not. I need help becuase I can't see half the problems I know are there without a fresh pair of non-me eyes. ;)

Worst advice? Hmm. I don't know; when I was starting out I tried to do what everyone wanted too much, and that ended up (like the fable) not working for anyone--it took me a long time to get comfortable enough with my own style and getting to the point I know (kinda) what I want so I can take advice and filter through it. I'm usually skeptical of crits that want me to change everything completely to suit the critter. ;)

I always like hearing about how other people work with crit partners/groups, so thanks for the thoughts on it, Karen!

~Merc

Barbara Martin said...

I've given the odd bit of critiquing to others while reading piece meal, but I've never had character or place lapses like what you have been experiencing. Perhaps my mind is fitted differently, don't know. I understand your concern.

It's also important when critiquing to allow the writer their style and methods without changing them to your own. Sometimes that can be a tough call without hurting the person's feelings.