Today I’m going to touch on the subject of critiques. So there you are, putting the finishing touches on the manuscript you finished, thinking, Damn, this is good! A best seller for sure! Of course you think it’s great, after all you wrote it. What could possibly be wrong with it? Time to have someone else read it. Fine, we’ll let some family members read it. They give it back, giving you high praise for such a remarkable story. Cool! You believe you are one step closer to reaching the top of the best seller list. You are flying high with the praise. So you ask a couple of friends to read it. One tells you it’s great, send it out to be published. The other, well, they have a few suggestions about the characters and the storyline. They suggest you join a group to get your work critiqued.
So you mull over this idea, while secretly thinking Nothing needs to be changed. Sure, there’s a couple of spelling errors that are easily fixed, and punctuation that needs to be dealt with. You decide to join a critique group on FB. After introducing yourself, you post your work, still believing they will love it and tell you to publish it. First comment you get back — ‘Why the long description of the main character? Are they describing themselves to another person?’ Next, ‘Too many adverbs!’ As the comments pile up, pointing out this problem and that problem you feel your heart start to sink to the floor. You’re thinking, But everyone else who reads it says it’s great! In a fit of pique, you post ‘My family and friends said this was great and that I should publish it.’ One member posts back, ‘If you believe them, then self publish it on Amazon.’
You say the hell with it, and prepare your novel for self-publishing. You set it at a reasonable price and make a few sales. The reviews you get back, however, are all one star. The reviewers point out all the problems the people in the critique group did. Feeling like you’ve been stabbed in the heart, you crawl into a dark corner with your laptop and stare at the document on the screen. Once the initial shock passes, you go back and read through the comments made in the group, making note of books or websites they suggest you read to help improve your writing and editing. You apply their suggestions to your work, doing a rewrite. You post it again and you start to get compliments! They tell you the story is greatly improved and you feel great. And relieved.
When it comes to critiques, you need to put on armor and not let the suggestions get to you. Good group members make the suggestions and comments for a reason. They’re not trying to sabotage your writing and publishing efforts, they are helping you make it better! No matter how hard we try, the first draft of what we write is going to have problems. Joining a critique group like Writers World gives you a chance to better your craft. Even though you love writing, you still want to publish what you write. When you publish something, you don’t want to end up with one-star reviews criticizing your work. The group helps you improve your grammar, descriptions, plots, and scenes. They help you improve the flow and rhythm of the story. Sure, it hurts when someone points out a problem. After all, you put your heart and soul into your writing, the words become your children. Now, if your child is causing trouble, you would want to know, wouldn’t you? Better to have a neighbor or friend tell you what they are up to, instead of the authorities. In the critique group, the members are those friends and neighbors, while the authorities are those who buy your book. Accept what they say, fix the problems, and get back to writing. Apply what you learned from them to your future works.
When you belong to a great critique group, you can comment and make suggestions on the works of others. Pointing out the overuse of certain words or phrases. When you make these comments, be courteous. Don’t slam another person’s work, since they are there for the same reason you are. The good groups have great admins who keep the trolls at bay, and make the environment welcoming. There’s nothing wrong with being a lurker at first, reading previous and new posts as they appear, but participating in the group will help you and in turn help others who post for critiques on their writing. Be polite in your responses, thank those who have commented on your work, and salute the admins who keep the group running.
May the words ever flow!