Thursday, February 02, 2006

On Critiques

I've been thinking about critiques. Specifically for the written work.

For many people a critique equals criticism. In turn, criticism means that the labor wasn't good. Miss Snark's Crapometer proved just how true that was.

But can't a critique mean something more than finding fault?

I believe it can. But it relies on several things: thick skin, honesty, bias, self-improvement, trust and relationships are the few that come to mind.

I just started reading a book called The Writing Clinic from The Writer's Digest. Part One is titled The Value of Critiquing. This is my favorite bit.

Does it inspire you? If you have to strain to understand what your critiquers are talking about, then the suggestion probably isn't for you. The good ones hit like a revelation, leaving you itching to start your rewrites.

I'm not too much further than that passage. It make me pause, pull out my red pen and underline it. I'm not a prolific writer and don't bring something to my crit group every month. When I do, however, I walk away with a sense of how I can make my changes and the strength that they add.

I want to be a better critiquer, so I looked ahead to the section entitled Critique Etiquette. A series of rules follow for both the critiquer and the critiquee. The suggestions are ones most members of my group follow with ease. But my favorite was for the critiquee: Listen. Shut up and listen.

It's so easy to get wrapped up in the why, that the point is lost. The writer may have had a good reason, but it didn't work. Listen and figure out why it didn't work. Then jump into the revisions.

This book has an excellent format with examples of editing for literary elements in fiction, non-fiction and poetry. I have feeling that it's going to be invaluable with time.

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