Monday, October 25, 2010

"A Second Cup of Coffee — and the Ruthless Critique"

Last week we discussed the value of the unsparing writing critique one that's honest, incisive, direct and comes from someone you trust. But what should you look for in a critique partner?
Small critique groups (or one on one) done face to face are like dating. Whom do you know with these qualities:
  • Willing to put time and effort into evaluating and analyzing
  • Is well-read in various genres
  • Has some familiarity and experience in your genre
  • Knows and pays attention to various aspects of a story (plot, tone, voice, characters)
  • Addresses the critique as art and science
  • Has writing and/or editing credits
  • Is trustworthy with your work and has your best interest at heart
A list like this clearly eliminates many options upfront and may not be a peer review or partnership. You may opt to work with someone from whom you receive but don't receive feedback.

Another reason to join a critique group besides getting feedback is learning to give it, because you learn to see the same foibles in your writing that you find in others. Put into practice, this hones your writing skills. For mutual critique sessions and groups, consider these:
  • Are group members generally open to your suggestions?
  • Is there a balance between the members, with different strengths and weaknesses to learn from?
  • Is the group moderated so as to maintain order?
Generally, critique groups, like toddlers, scamper away after a year or two. One way to tell whether your group or mentor is working for you is that your work is better for the effort.

For those wondering about cost there doesn't have to be one. Some peer reviewers don't have as many writing credits, but still offer insights that improve your writing. As to groups, most are free, though mentoring relationships generally aren't. Still, these can be worth it. In choosing a mentor, ask the same questions you would when hiring an editor:
  • How long have you been doing this?
  • Whom have you worked with?
  • What genres do you work in?
  • What's your professional background, and where has your work been published?
  • What's the fee structure?
A resume, bio and list of writing credits should provide this information.

Tip: Meet informally first, maybe with a sample of work to critique, and leave yourself room to opt out.



Tahlia said...

This is a good list of what to look for. I pay a mentor sometimes becasue I have one who is very well respected in the business and very experienced. It's been really helpful.

Have you checked out ch 1 of Lethal Inheritance yet? I mentioned it a while ago.

Adele Annesi said...

Thanks, and you're right about mentors. The best usually are worth it. What's the URL for your chapter 1?