Saturday, October 20, 2007

Critiquing Your Critics

Critiques and reviews are an important part of every writer’s success. There are many helpful responses readers, writers, editors and agents will give you but along with these you’ll often find much of the feedback you receive will be of no use to you. Some suggestions, if followed, could actually prove problematic for your writing’s success. This occurs for many reasons, so what should you look for when you critique your critics?

1. Accuracy - Firstly of course it’s important to make sure your critic is accurate in his or her comments.

When it comes to suggestions on alternate spellings and grammar, various dialects and locations can differ in opinion. For example, some words when read by an English audience should be spelt differently then they would be if written for American readers. This is important to remember when you are writing for a specific audience but the real rule in this case is to be consistent. You are not incorrect if you use one spelling over the other since both are correct but it is important to maintain the same regional choices throughout your piece.

Some corrections and suggestions readers may make will simply be incorrect. If you’re not sure, always double check in a reliable dictionary or grammar guide. Check your resources and confirm your facts and your source. It’s better to be sure than to be mistaken.

2. Style and Voice – Some critics will comment on points that are purely personal choice.

Style and Voice are two things that are uniquely you. It’s important when revising the comments of your reviewers that anything relating to areas where opinions will differ greatly should remain true to your own opinion, or the opinion of your primary audience. There is nothing worse than a writer adhering to suggestions in bits and parts of a piece that alter his personal voice. A fluid line of language will quickly become a jumble of multiple personalities that confuse and frustrate readers.

It’s also important to remember that the ‘you’ factor is what makes your writing your own. There is no point listening to the comments of an acclaimed author if your story begins to sound more like their story than your own. Maintain your personal integrity and make changes with your own voice and not the authority of someone else.

3. Story, Plot and Character – It is important that any suggestions maintain the whole rather than destroy it.

You know your story, plot and characters better than any reader. If you’ve done your job you’ll have given your readers the information they need to fill in all the plot blanks and by the end of your piece you should have answered those pressing questions (and left a few hanging if there will be sequels).

Some critics will pick at points in your story, plot or characters. Much of the time these will be valid and you should pay particular attention to verifying their comments. Decide if you agree with their suggestions and if you make changes ensure they are rounded; follow through with every fact throughout the piece. Consistency is the key to keeping your readers enthralled. Any changes you make need to be maintained by every corroborative scene.

Give Thanks!

Regardless of the value of each critique and review it is important to thank your critic. They have taken the time to read and respond to your writing. Time is a valuable commodity. All feedback enriches your future work. Every review offers you significant insight into the minds of your readers and what they like or dislike. Even if their comments cannot be used with this particular piece you can carry the thoughts into your next story or article. It’s important to acknowledge the efforts of your critics. Besides, you may want them to offer their comments on your next piece.



Blogger Michele L. Tune said...

I completely agree, Rebecca!

Once again, you've provided an awesome, informative post.

Keep 'em coming!

4:55 AM  
Anonymous Natasha said...

Great post, Rebecca.

One thing I had to learn when writing my first novel was to pick and choose which critiques to take on. At first, I think I tried to please everyone - I felt I had to after they'd given up their time to give me feedback - but then I realised that the very things that one person really liked would be the very things that another would suggest I changed.

So in the end I guess it's the author's call, and he/she needs to go with what feels right for that particular story.

4:33 PM  
Blogger Rebecca Laffar-Smith said...

Thanks Michele!

I think part of the learning experience that comes in the earlier days for writers is to learn which advice to take on board and which to ignore. We really can't please everyone no matter how much we might like to try. The important thing to remember is our personal opinion about our work. In the end, if we're not happy with what we produce we'll stop writing and if that happens, everyone loses.

10:16 AM  

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