a blog for writers
We writers are in a bind. We need critique. We need editing. We need someone to tell us the truth. But sometimes the truth hurts. Picture Colonel Jessup addressing the courtroom in 1992’s A Few Good Men.
Yes, the truth hurts, but if you don’t have someone to open up your manuscript and tell you the truth, then you send it out to agents and editors asking for them to tell you it stinks. So what do we since we writers are creatures with fragile egos? Do we ask for our friends to hurt our feelings, or do we ask them to do the old soft-shoe and leave us open for pain?
Can we find a middle ground? Kris Rusch recently wrote a blog about how writers frequently give up under wilting critique, and we certainly don’t want to do that to our friends. We want to nourish them and we want the same care and respect given to our own work. But we also want the truth.
How do you balance the harsh truth that not everyone in your large critique group is ready for publication, but encourage them to keep working at it? You layer your critique. Think chocolate sundae with peanuts, and they don’t like nuts. First layer in something nice. Then a constructive piece of advice. And end with something nice. Ice cream, nuts, then the chocolate fudge. Overall your critique will feel positive and the advice will settle in, even if it’s not what the author wants to hear. And for goodness sake, don’t be mean.
Tell her it need work, sure, but don’t belittle her work. You would be surprised at what people say to each other when looking at what has taken someone months or even years of their life to write. Every one has strengths. This is especially true when judging unpublished author contests. These people have taken a big risk, they’ve sent you their baby and you need to treat their work with care.
Do be fair and honest, but after you write your critique, go back over it and make sure you have used positive turns of phrase.
Do give gold stars praising anything they’ve done right. And trust me, you can find something. Even if it’s just that you like the names of their characters. Say something nice.
(Did you notice I layered the Don’t in the middle? It’s hot, everyone needs a sundae.)
Pretend the person who wrote the entry is a small child. Would you tell a small child that they should never write again? That they are stupid? Or that they might as well give up? When someone hands you something they’ve made they regress to being a small child asking for parental approval. Be a nice parent, not a shrew.
Use phrases like: Good job. I liked this part. Try doing this more frequently. Or, I think this needs a little more work, but I can see where you’re going with this. Positive, concrete advice delivered in an upbeat voice. I know you all can do it!
Are you in a crit group or do you have a crit partner? Have you had a bad experience? What made the difference to you when someone else judged your work, why did you keep writing?
Since we started with the truth, I thought we’d end with the snow job. Here is Richard Gere in Chicago with the ultimate con man, Billy Flynn.
Don’t forget to check out my book review out today at http://ParanormalFreebies.com on Sharon Clare’s brand new release, Love of Her Lives.