I’ve been pretty productive the last few days. I polished my novel some more, and read and critiqued a writer’s-group-fellow’s snippets.
Critiquing can be hard, both on the reviewer and the writer. As a writer, it’s disheartening to hear that your baby needs work, and often a lot of it. As a reviewer, who writes him/herself, you know this. So you try not to be so harsh that you discourage the writer. It’s a fine balance, because neither is it useful to the writer if you say “whoopee, great stuff” if it’s not true.
The trick is not to become personal. Critique the scenes, the plot, the characters, their actions and reactions, specific turns of phrases, grammar, typos. Never critique the writer as a person; never call him/her a moron for getting that word wrong again, never say he/she’s a nitwit for trying to make the same point a hundred times instead of getting on with the story.
Others’ opinions are important. I’m not talking friends’ and families’ opinions, because they know and like you, and will sugarcoat it to soften the blow – plus, if they’re not writers themselves, they won’t know what to look for other than ‘I like this’ or ‘I don’t understand/like this’ (which can already be a great help, so long as they’re willing to be open about the latter). Because, if you want to sell your novel, sugarcoating won’t help you. Neither will vague opinions or suggestions.
I’m glad I found my writer’s group. We’re a small number, and not too diligent about regular postings of snippets and critiques. Life gets in the way. But there are very different personalities within our small group, and when a critique is written, it’s very conscientiously and honestly done. You get different views and opinions, and if one critic overlooks something, another one is sure to catch it.
So, here’s a great big Thank You to the ladies and gentleman of my writer’s group!