The Pyrenees---Southern France

The Pyrenees---Southern France

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Friends Don't Care...

        Last night was critique night. I met with my usual writing critique group, and a remark as we left made me reflect on the writing process.

       I had brought a problematic piece to share. You know how it is. Occasionally you have something that you know is fairly good. It's more or less finished. There  is some minor tweaking needed, but overall, it's decent.

      This piece wasn't like that. It was for a contest. I wasn't sure if it really fit with the contest requirements. I knew that parts of it--tone-wise--didn't fit together cohesively. And there were parts that I worried were too raggy--too much complaining, too crabby.

photo by Seeman @ morguefile


      As usual, my group helped me out. They pursed their lips in concentration... They crossed out parts/lines/words and wrote alternatives I could consider... They discussed the essay.

      As we walked out and to our cars, one of the WWWPs said, "Sioux, I hope you weren't offended. They were just suggestions I made."

       Really? Was she kidding? I have skin that's a mile thick (which explains my fat hips and my roly-poly poochy gut), and besides, that is why I brought my piece to the critique table in the first place... to hear the hard-to-hear things, to get some suggestions, to troubleshoot my writing.

      Friends don't care when their friends say things like, "This part needs work. This part needs to be changed," because they're said in love, and they're said with the intention of improving our craft.

      And isn't that what we're all trying to do--to get better?

      How do you handle the suggestions/critique from others? Do you have any funny or moving stories?

24 comments:

  1. In the end it is our decison whether we act on others' advice so no offense should be taken. I appreciate and value all comments...but then move on the do what I think is best. Sometimes I am stiff necked and just want a line the way I hear it...no matter what. I have few informed readers; you are so lucky to have your "bunch"!

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  2. Critique is meant to be constructive. No matter how well intended, I worry about offending.

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    1. Linda--Me thinks you worry too much. ;)

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  3. I dislike criticism because I am always correct.

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  4. My experiences with offering any sort of critique have not been positive.

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    1. Mama Zen--I'm sorry to hear that. As gifted as a craftsman as you are, I imagine your advice would be invaluable.

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  5. I'm glad you got the input you were looking for, Sioux. One never knows how that kind of stuff will go.

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    1. Shay--If you don't know the group, I agree.

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  6. Friends don't let friends write crap.

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  7. I think Val said it perfectly.

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    1. Sarah--Of course she said it perfectly, because she was quoting a very wise woman. ;)

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  8. It comes down to trust. You must trust the person you've asked to critique your work to be first honest and then kind. I was fortunate with the Inklets that they were both of those things, and I'm sure your WWWP ladies are the same. But there are some groups---some people---who are neither honest nor kind, and they can do some real damage. It's so important to always remember that this is a subjective business and in the end, after you've listened and digested what others have to say, you must go with your gut and keep/toss what makes sense to you. It's easier when the words you're chewing on come from a trusted friend, but ultimately, you've got the pen.

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    1. I agree with this, Lisa. I am not in a group, so the few experience I've had with critiques have been with total strangers. Being a newby, I think that everyone else must know more than me. Thanks for the reminder to listen, digest and ultimately go with your gut!

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    2. Whoopsy. I put my comment to your comment (Lisa) under Lynn's comment.)

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    3. NoExcuses--Why do you assume you know the least since you're the greenest?

      Find some local writers you admire. Hang out with them. Scope them out. And then choose a few to form a group with you (Sioux said, nudging gently).

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    4. I agree with you, Sioux! NoExcuses, please don't think that because you're the least experienced means the more experienced writers know more. Many very experienced writers are terrible at critiquing the work of others as they try to impose their voice and style on the work. Taking advice about grammar or plot holes is one thing, but don't let anyone mess with your voice!

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    5. And the other thing Sioux said...scope out the group first and trust the Universe to bring you to the right place. Take the steps. You'll find your tribe. :)

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  9. Of course I know I want honesty so I would want to do the same for others... with kindness. And it's like Lisa said, you take what you want.

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    1. Lynn--You, Linda, Tammy and Beth--You all four do it with gentleness and wisdom.

      Every time I hear about a writing group, I give thanks again... because I know how fortunate I am...

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  10. Lisa--The WWWWPs ARE the same as the Inklets. But you also right about who has the pen. There are times when someone it the group makes a suggestion, and I reflect on my piece and ultimately do NOT make the suggested change... because it's my piece.

    I've observed other groups where there is a member or two who are unkind and stupid. They cut down down pieces, their advice is NOT sound. The rest of the group (in this case) knew it, and just inwardly rolled their eyes when this member (or two) made comments.

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    1. Makes you wonder at people, doesn't it? The Inklets were so terrific that I've been afraid to jump into another group, so I've done without. I have a critique partner I trust completely---she knows all my bad habits and calls me out on them, sometimes with nothing more than the remark, "You're doing it again." lol Even so, there are some things unrelated to "bad habits," thiings within a ms itself.

      The first editor my publisher assigned to Love to Believe HATED that Rebecca used the phrase "Man up." When I say it drove her nuts, I mean she was wild with it, to the point of being snarky. I argued my reasons, and fortunately, the second round editor agreed with me 100% that the phrase suited Rebecca to a T (and the second round editor at my publisher has the Last Word), so I didn't have to go to battle over it. But the point is that while it's important to have other eyes on our work, those eyes aren't always the best suited to make a judgment. At the end of the day, it's our name on the work, and we have to be sure in our own minds of the paragraphs that follow that byline.

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