Friday, March 18, 2011

To Critique Or Not To Critique? That is the question.

As I venture to the end of the journey with Midnight Raynne I find that I am wondering more and more about critique groups. The idea has been floating around in my brain for weeks now and I still don't have a clear idea on what I want to do with regards to them.

There are pros and there are cons, as with almost anything. I have done a beta read before and absolutely love the idea of having our peers give us a better idea of what they liked or didn't like with our work. However, if you are like me, then you have a slight problem with this area. I find it very difficult to not like a book. I almost always like what I read. Then again, I look at each new book I read by itself entirely. I try not to compare them to other books I've read in the past, they are all unique, like us. Each one it's own individual unique snowflake floating around the world. For this reason I don't think I'm the best person to critique someone else's writing.

On that same note I worry that someone else will read my book and tell me just how flat and boring and horrible it is. Yes, that has occurred to me that it can happen. My husband laughs at this notion. A quick side note to why he laughs. In NJ to become a teacher you have to take proficiency tests and pass them. I had to take two of them, one in elementary education and one in middle school social studies. I studied for both tests, took them, and came home in tears. I was sure I had failed both. Nothing that I had studied from the book I had on elementary ed was on the test. I fully expected to receive a notice saying I had to retake the test. When the results finally came I opened the large envelope first leaving the smaller one till last. In the larger envelope was a certificate of achievement stating that I had tested within the top 15% of all test takers for the elementary ed test. SHOCK! I couldn't believe what I was seeing. Not only had I passed both tests I had done exceedingly well at one of them. He laughed because every time I take a test I think I did horrible on it and really do quite well. He's applying the same logic to my writing. I kind of hope he's right. *Fingers crossed*

Back to the topic, though. While trying to decide about critique groups and how to go about getting into one I happened upon a disscusion group on Goodreads with a well known author. When asked if she could read a fans work she replied that for legal reasons she cannot read unpublished novels. This struck me and I started to wonder about that as well. Is it best for writers to not read unpublished works. I mean, it could be rather easy for one writer to critique another writer, write their own piece of work, and have the critiqued writer claim they stole something from their novel. So, then where does that put writers?

Just when I was leaning towards finding a critique group I found out it might actually be a problem. So, now I'm still stuck deciding on whether I should find someone to critique my writing or not.

What are your thoughts on critique groups? Are you a part of one? Have they helped you?


  1. I'm working with Critique partners instead of in a group, but it's been amazingly helpful. They point out all the things I can't see in my writing and goad me to edit-edit-edit until it's beautiful.

    To get the best out of your work, I'd definitely advise going for critiques. It's up to you to decide how to use their advice, but it can only help.

  2. In my experience, reading for other people—and having others read for me—has been one of THE best things that's helped my writing, hands down. Even if everyone likes what you've written, on the whole, not everyone will like everything about it, and not everything will like the same things. Plus, it's just a helpful test to see if you're communicating the things you *think* you're communicating. That bit of distance/objectivity makes all the difference!

    I don't know, as far as people 'stealing' ideas—I'm just not too worried about this. I chose my crit partners for specific reasons, and one of those important reasons was that I trust them. Now, joining a random group of strangers? Eh. That might be a different story. Trading work with friends, however—especially friends you can trust to give you honest, but tactful, feedback—is something I'd recommend 100%.

    Plus, I think reading published books v. reading early drafts by your friends = kind of two different animals. Many published books are smooooooth reading, because they've been through tons and tons of revision. Beta reading feels different to me because you're actively looking for ways a work could be stronger. I used to be a "I like almost everything I read" girl, too, but beta reading has helped me develop a stronger eye for what works, what doesn't, why, and how to communicate it in a constructive way. This, in turn, has helped me to see my own work in a similar light.

    So. Sorry to ramble on and on! :) Hope this was helpful, and congratulations on getting this far with your WIP!


  3. Thanks for your comments. After reading them I think I am definitely going to go the way of finding crit partners and having them look over my WIP before I send it out to agents. Thanks for the insight. :-)