Sunday, March 26, 2017

Writing Critique Buddies

I’ve been very lucky to have wonderful beta readers. Some were other writers, and we exchanged feedback on each other’s work. Some were not writers and their feedback as discerning, thoughtful, and articulate readers—can only be repaid by the special place I hope they get in heaven.


But there are some pitfalls I have learned, from my own experience and hearing about others’, which I hope to share here. Rather than couch such in the negative, I decided to phrase the points in the affirmative. You can deduce what not to do from it. Goodness, the very act of a thoughtful exchange is as generous and as positive as can be. Let’s keep it that way.


·         When agreeing to exchange manuscript critiques it’s best to keep the number of helpers who come forward small, so that on your end you can give thorough feedback, the kind you would like to get.

·         Do point every typo, misused word, and spelling mistake. These little escapees from proofreading are often caught by other readers. Although this requires nitty-gritty kind of reading, you should treat the manuscript as your own. You wouldn’t want yours to go out on submission that way.

·         It’s fine to state something reads so perfectly to you that you have no suggestions. This happens rarely, but it does happen. Being a critic will sometimes mean only enthusiastic praise. It's better than coming up with “something” to negate for the sake of it.


·         Apropos the point above^, it’s nice to begin and end with genuine positive comments. It’s even more helpful to be unsparing at the meat of the feedback. The rare times works-in-progress come your way flawless are exactly that, rare. Best help is real help.


·        Yes, that--


Above all, helpful feedback is specific. This old post got more hits than most of my blog posts, and so I point to it, again.




If you are offering feedback not as an exchange, your generosity is legend with me. Books, also, take a small village.


13 comments:

  1. Very true. The best feedback is always honest feedback, motivated only by helpfulness. And I agree, it's always best to phrase it in positive terms, as in: "What might make this point clearer . . ." "I got the feeling that Joe-Schmoe did this because . . . was that your intention?" Etc. And I am eternally grateful to my writing buddies for the typos and picky punctuation errors they find. You just can't catch everything yourself. I love your description: "Books, also, take a small village."

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  2. Although I understand that beta readers can be helpful, I agree strongly with your point that you should keep the group small. Too many opinions can lead to confusion.

    Love,
    Janie

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  3. Oh, Mirka, I'm so lucky to have you as a crib partner. Your feedback is always all of the above and more! And I especially take heart with that first tip - to keep the number of critiquers small. It does indeed get overwhelming to a) have a large number of critiques to give in a week's time and b) have too many reactions/ critiques to ponder at once. Thank you for this lovely reminder!

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  4. Great post, Mirka! And I totally agree, sandwiching a constructive criticism between two positive uplifting comments is always a good way to go. ;) My love for critique buddies knows no bounds...they have been...and continue to be...one of the best things about this entire writing journey.

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  5. Well said, Mirka! And thank you for your last critique. It was extremely helpful! Hugs, Ev

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  6. Thank you, Mirka, for always treating my manuscripts as your own!
    Trine

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  7. Great honest advice! I'm lucky to have you in my critique group!

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  8. I also love it when my critique partners ask me questions. Have you thought about...? What is he thinking here? Where is this happening?

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  9. It would be nice if everything we wrote was flawless, but like you said it just doesn't happen. Critique partners are wonderful for catching errors.

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  10. Good critique partners are the best! I used to do copy editing critiques, but I don't anymore unless it's a final proofreading type of thing. Copy editing takes too long, and it's unnecessary when you're looking at developmental, structural stuff. (I'm talking about full novel critiques.)

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  11. I'd be lost without my critique group. And I've been amazed by the generosity of people who have offered to beta read for me. Those fresh eyes are invaluable.

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  12. I've been lucky to have a variety of wise writers/readers critique my work over the years. It's been extremely helpful and I always feel I learn something when reading their work, as well.

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  13. Speaking as a member of a wonderful critique group, I can only thank you for these reminders and agree with your other commenters. (The cartoon is priceless).

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