by Kathy Cannon Wiechman
I belong to two critique groups, but the first critique group I went to was not for me. I was the only member who writes for young readers. The other members treated me as though I needed encouragement to keep writing until I was good enough to write for adults. I never went back. It takes a special skill to write for children, and I looked for groups who had that special skill.
|Kathy's local critique group.|
In all my years of writing, I have gotten good critiques and bad ones, tough ones and not-so-tough ones.
A good critique is one where the criticism is helpful. And some of the toughest have been the best ones. They tell me what doesn’t work & why. They give me something to fix.
At a workshop’s group critique, I was advised to get rid of the first chapter and include the necessary information from that chapter in small flashback snippets throughout the subsequent chapters. But, I was told, “don’t lose that wonderful metaphor about the river.” Without those words, I likely would have deleted that part.
I have learned how to give a critique from having received them. I always learn, but sometimes what I learned was how NOT to give a critique.
At one conference I attended (where I had to pay extra to get a critique), my first chapter I’d submitted was from a historical fiction novel written in Appalachian dialect. My reviewer began the critique with the words, “I’m not a fan of historical fiction and I hate dialect.” Bad critique.
Another reviewer made me feel like a fifth grader in a classroom. She didn’t have to like my writing, but she still could have treated me like an adult. I’m not a beginner. I work hard. I used to teach creative writing, and I taught my young students with more respect than that reviewer showed me. I left that critique feeling disrespected and unable to see whatever good suggestions may have been included in her critique.
So here is what I learned: If you’re looking for a critique group, find one that meets your needs. If you critique someone’s work, try to give criticisms that are constructive, treat fellow writers as you would like to be treated, and remind them that your opinions are only opinions. And when you especially like something, be sure to mention that, too.
Happy writing and may all your critiques be good ones.