Critique My Writing

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If you can let yourself ignore them, you’ll do fine. There’s the believer in alien abduction who wants big-eyed gray persons in every scene of your book.

And the recently sober 12-stepper who says all your characters are addicts.

As I went through the manuscript doing rewrites, I realized nearly every issue my editor had with my work turned out to be something I’d added or subtracted at the request of various critique groups. Actually, much of my editor’s criticism made me feel vindicated.

He gave me the courage to ignore a whole lot of what I heard in group critiques after that.

One of his red-inked comments said, “are you writing for Alzheimer’s patients? ” I’d also removed some scenes because they offended one or two readers’ political or personal beliefs.

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Unfortunately, eliminating strong opinions left my characters with little or no motivation for their actions.I often advise new writers to join critique groups.Groups are usually free and they’re a great way to learn the basics of the writing craft.But the woman who stomped out was too busy being offended to notice that. Often critique groups grow out of college writing workshops, which may be taught by literature or poetry professors.Or they may be started by a genre group and expand into other genres. But you need to make your own genre rules and expectations clear to the group.I knew that, but I hadn’t been strong enough to ignore her weekly assertions that I needed more description. Is it a soft rain or a hard rain falling on the coffin? I needed to smile politely and ignore most of what she said.In trying to throw literary stuff in my comic mystery, I’d ended up boring everybody.They can get writers out of their “writing garrets” and help newbies navigate the treacherous waters of the ever-changing publishing industry. Never take what you hear in critique groups or workshops as gospel. Petty tyrants often hold sway and the Dunning Kruger Effect can demonstrate itself on a regular basis.(That’s the scientific theory that the most ignorant people are usually the most confident.) Even when you’ve found a wonderful critique group that seems knowledgeable, helpful and kind, they can sometimes steer you wrong, simply because of the nature of the group set-up.Sure, a mystery needs details to set the scene, but they should be added with quick, precise brushstrokes, not mellifluous lines of poesy. If you’re writing domestic literary fiction, a romantic comedy, or office satire, you don’t want to take advice from somebody like the thriller writer who once critiqued my work saying,”up the stakes! I don’t even believe the villain is going to rape her.” No. The bad guy was going to pull her book from the publishing calendar.That was a big threat, which would have thrown the character’s life into chaos and left her broke in a foreign country.


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