First, thanks to Pauline for doing a blog-exchange with me. You can find her at my house, “Dishin’ It Out.” (http://mizging.blogspot.com) When I pondered about a topic, I immediately thought of critique groups because I recently rejoined one. The experience is invaluable.


I cannot express my appreciation enough to the members of my current group. They have given me suggestions for improving the story flow, corrected errors, and asked questions that make me stop and think about how better to word something. One author, in particular keeps me mindful that taste, touch, hear, and smell are just as important as seeing. The senses play an vital role in “showing” a reader your novel So put the reader in the character’s shoes even if the story takes place next to a water treatment plant. *smile*


There is one thing you should do before you join a critique group. Develop a thick skin.
If you plan to submit your chapters for dissection, then expect they will be. Critique groups aren’t in place to hold you hand, tell you lies about your work, or hurt your feelings. Honestly can sometimes be painful, and you may just discover that your manuscript needs more honing than you expected. It falls to the author to determine which suggestions to follow and which to ignore. Believe me, you often get conflicting critiques, so if the “tip” works use it, if it doesn’t, ignore it.


Not everyone critiques in the same manner. I, for one, do a line-by-line because that’s the only way I know to share what I’ve learned in the writing process. Some skim the chapter, looking for missing commas and misspellings, and others just comment that your story is lovely. They obviously don’t want to rock anyone’s world with a negative comment. But that’s okay…these types are helpful, too.


Critiquing takes a lot of time, and of course, the newer authors require even more. If, after doing a few chapters, I notice the person is not taking note of my suggestions, then I cease offering my help. I don’t mean to infer that I know more than anyone else, but experiences have taught me much more than I knew before. A good rule of thumb…if more than one person zeroes in on something, then you’d best listen. Of course it seems like new rules crop up weekly. Some are house-preferences and don’t apply across the board, but if the requirements make sense, I’ll share them.


My pet peeves are word echoes, redundancy, and chapters that do nothing to propel the story forward and are filled with wasted information. And nothing is more annoying than unneeded tags to identify two people in a room having a dialogue. Continued use of “he said, John said, Mary said, she said,” drives me nuts. Readers are pretty smart. They can easily keep track of the speaker with a minimal of hints. Still feel the need for a tag? Use action…a phrase that identifies the speaker by something they’re doing. “It’s rather cold out today,” John said. OR better, “It’s rather cold out today.” John moved to the fireplace and warmed his hands over the crackling flames.


The hardest question is how do you relay those peevish habits to an author without making an enemy? There is never a need to be cold and cruel, but sometimes even a hint of negativity will send a newbie fleeing from the site. You have to be prepared to get as good as you give, and that’s the truth. I’ve never been very good at candy-coating and I doubt I’m going to start now. I don’t always like the critiques I get back, but I consider each and every one of them and I’d say I just 90% of the recommendations. I’m still constantly amazed at the minor issues overlooked by so many pairs of eyes. I don’t think it’s possible to ever have a “perfect” manuscript…I’ve never seen one, at least.


Thanks again, Pauline for allowing me time on your blog. I hope I’ve inspired someone to join a critique group.


Ginger! Thanks so much for visiting and for the wise words!
perilously all for now!
Pauline

Ginger Simpson Talks Critique Groups!

4 thoughts on “Ginger Simpson Talks Critique Groups!

  • October 16, 2010 at 1:18 am
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    Hey Ginger, so true about great crit partners. I’ve had some wonderful folks helping me along teh way (smile). And you do have to have a thick skin, and you can’t be married to your work. You have to know when you’re getting good advice and when to say thank you, but no.

  • October 15, 2010 at 6:02 pm
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    I love my c-peeps! I also love that they each bring something different to the table, so I’m reminded to serve up a little of everything. 🙂

  • October 15, 2010 at 6:44 pm
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    Thanks to all who came and supported me here. I have found some valued friends in my crit group, and I respect their opinions so much. And yes…when I said word echoes, I did mean using the same word within the same paragraph. There are times when it seems right, but most times it demonstrates laziness on the author’s part to find new words that share the same meaning. For instance:

    John drove the wagon toward the river. The rutted road jolted the wagon and made for a rough ride. When he reached the water, John jumped down from the wagon and led the wagon’s team…

    I think you get what I mean. 🙂

  • October 15, 2010 at 1:46 am
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    Should have sent it through a critique group…they would have caught that glaring “honestly” that should have read “honesty.” 🙂

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