Monday, August 24, 2015

MG Minded Talks - Critiques

This month MG Minded is talking about Critiques. Here are the questions:

1) How do you prefer to give your critiques? On a line by line basis vs big picture? Focus on the positive? Something else?

2) We as writers are told we need to develop a thick skin, but how do you deliver constructive feedback in a way that doesn't completely cripple a writer's spirit?

3) What have you learned from critiquing others work?

Dan K
1) I focus on big picture and focus on the positive. If I can find something that will help them improve craft, I bring that up. 

2) To me the worst critique is the critique that gets people to stop writing. Lots of us are dealing with newish writers who are really only going to get better by writing more. Sometimes "constructive" criticism causes people to stop writing.

1) I feel the most comfortable giving big-picture crits. Pacing has always been a strength of mine. But I'll give line edits any time a CP wants them.
2) By keeping in mind that stories we critique aren't our stories. They belong to another writer and
our job isn't to change the story, but to help it to be better. In doing that I always make sure my crits align with what the writer wants to say. That doesn't mean I won't suggest major changes to characters or plot, but I only do that to ensure my CP is going to be able to tell his or her story the most effectively. I'm also a big believer of adding in comments to lines or scenes I love. Not only do we need to know what isn't working, we need to know what does.

3) I've learned so much about building character relationships and dialogue. My CPs are incredible writers and I always feel blessed when I get to read something of theirs.

1) I tend to be better with line by line. Even if I'm doing big picture, I always end up commenting on awkwardness of lines, my reactions as I go, and correcting mistakes. I feel bad not telling people about mistakes I see for fear they and/or someone else missed them.

2) I use the sandwich method. I always start and end with something positive. It's never hard to find at least two nice things to say about someone's work. I tend to be blunt but not harsh about the feedback I deliver what's working and what's not and possible suggestions for fixing things. But i always remind people that my feedback is one person's opinion and to use what works for them and ditch the rest.

3) Oh my gosh, so many things. What my strengths and weaknesses are. How to build up to stakes. How to set scenes so they are more visual. How to make characters that have depth and feel real. And it's increased my strengths in pacing, tension, and writing action scenes. Critiquing others also helps me see what areas I need to work on.

Tom M.
1) It depends on who it is and what they want. I'm okay with big-picture comments or pointing out things line by line. I'll highlight things I think are working, and sometimes offer open-ended suggestions in spots when alternatives might be explored.

2) If I ever feel I need to make a comment about something that doesn't work for me, I'll remind the writer that it's just my opinion about that one element and not an overall comment about the work. And I'll be sure to temper that by highlighting more positives in other places.

3) The biggest thing I get from critiquing someone else is being able to look at my own work with a more critical eye. 

1) big picture mostly, but I point out what I see as I go. 
2) I point out what I think needs work and explain why. They why is big. It's never that you are just a bad writer, it's gaining new perspective. It's learning. "If you do this, instead of thi
s the reader will be able to...." that sort of thing. Anything subjective I tell them that I might be wrong, if they don't or agree they can/should find another set of eyes for a second opinion, or they might be able to come up with a better solution than me.

3) tons! Just a few examples: 

  1. Not everyone agrees. Some writing styles don't mesh. Some folks have a different idea of what makes good writing (like following all the rules or breaking them for style/voice purposes) 
  2. Starting in the right place is an art. Starting too soon, or with too much detail is boring, starting in action is confusing. Conflict right away is needed. 
  3. Also that the story should be moving towards something we can see coming (even if we don't know what "it" is yet, or you surprise us with a twist). Things just happening isn't good enough. It needs to build to keep the reader interested. (Some things you " know" already but you need to see it for it to sink in.) 
1) Big picture. I'm terrible at critiquing line-by-line. I end up swimming in the story instead of eyeing the water for fish out of place.

2) I never give the "constructive criticism" part of a critique until I've delivered the "what's great about this" part. No work is without some merit, and, in my experience, if you tell someone what works before you tell them what doesn't, they take it much more as "how to fix it" than "OMGIAMTERRIBLEIQUIT!"

3) How to think critically about story, even if I didn't make it up. 

Tom T.
1) Typically I give critiques by reading it as I would any book, letting stew a little bit, then going back and really thinking if the whole thing flows and makes sense in terms of big picture. I'm all about continuity, and making sure things connect the way they should, as that's the core of the story. You need to make sure that works before anything else. In my editorial letters I'm always just going off that, and I'll write notes in the actual MS but as Jason A Rust said, I'm atrocious at line-by-line also. Also...sandwich method for me - postive-negative-positive

2) SANDWICH METHOD. I learned the hard way what it takes to take and accept constructive criticism. Go-go art school

3) I've learned more from critiquing someone else's work than any other "book" on writing methods. Seriously, catching someone elses mistakes, and seeing what they do better than you improves your craft 10 fold

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