Tuesday, June 23, 2009

On Critiquing

Sometimes when I’ve got my writer hat on (conferences, signings, publicity things), I’m asked to look over someone’s draft, short story, or manuscript.

If I’ve got the time (and usually I try to make time if it’s something short-ish), I’ll do it. The only thing is—I’m a horrible critiquer.

I really am—I’ve sat in critique groups before and heard people give really sound advice on someone’s WIP and thought, “Gosh, yes. That’s absolutely right. Why didn’t I see that?”

I’m great at proofreading. And I know when something is good or if it needs work. But I just can’t successfully edit anyone’s material but my own.

I read two short stories for someone this week. I realized one was far superior to the other…but couldn’t figure out why.

At some point I realized this failing of mine and banned myself from writing critique groups. During these groups, I’d found myself saying, “I thought this was great!” with absolutely no reason why I thought so. Or really disliking something and thinking, “Ick.” But I’d have no ideas on how not to make it icky.

My favorite way to help aspiring writers is by getting them connected to online help. There’s so much information out there on finding an agent or publisher, on honing your writing skills, on writing a killer query. I hope that I can be more helpful with the links I have.

When friends ask me to help them write a letter to a business or a school, I just write the letter for them. So much easier than trying to tweak theirs!

The funny thing is that my father is an English professor and wonderful at critiquing. So maybe it’s not a genetic thing.

Maybe some writers are just lousy at editing. I don’t want to rain on anyone’s parade. Let an agent or an editor who is paid to make someone feel rotten give the bad news. I’m glad to just do a swift proofread and give grammar tips and help making connections online. And after all, maybe the content that I dislike will be more appealing to other readers than it was to me.