Friday, January 24, 2014

The Value Of Critiques

Today on My Pet Blog, the spotlight belongs to Nutschell Anne Windsor and her co-editor, Alana Garrigues, as they tour the blogosphere with their new  book...


Take it away, Nutschell—

The Value of Critiques

I never understood the importance of critiques until I started taking my writing seriously. When I decided I wanted to be an author, and not just a writer, I read anything and everything I could on how to get published.

One of the things that kept on coming up was the importance of getting your manuscript critiqued.

When you’re just starting your writing journey, critiques can be a tough experience. It’s difficult to show others the story you’ve been working on for years, let alone have them point out why the story doesn’t seem to work for them. But once you realize that critiques are meant to help and not hinder your writing career, you’ll seek them out like a crazed addict.

When you’ve been working on your story for months, or years, it’s easy to become too attached to it. And when you’re too close to your work, you might miss out on crucial details that may elevate your story or your craft. You might have several characters or scenes which your story would be better without; and you won’t realize how unnecessary they are until someone with fresh eyes points it out to you.

Whenever I facilitate critiques for my non-profit group, Children’s Book Writers of Los Angeles (www.cbw-la.org), I always start the session by reminding everyone to give feedback in the most TACTful way possible.

Tact (noun \ˈtakt\ )

: the ability to do or say things without offending or upsetting other people

: a keen sense of what to do or say in order to maintain good relations with others or avoid offense

- Merriam-Webster

TACT is also the technique we use for our critiques:

T = Terrific

We share what we love about the piece, what worked in the story, what we liked about the plot, setting, character, pacing, etc.

A = Author Questions

In the last few minutes of the author’s critique time, we encourage the author to ask questions. They can ask about a story element they’re having trouble with, or a particular passage they need help with, or they can ask to clarify comments they’ve received.

C = Constructive Comments

We deliver, in the most respectful way possible, comments that are specific and helpful to help the author improve her story. We give feedback that is specific, objective and well-thought out.

 T = Talent/Thanks

We always end by thanking the author for having the courage to share her work. We also encourage the author to keep on writing and remind them that the group is there to help them achieve their writing goals.

Critiques allow other writers to have a look at your manuscript from a distant, detached point of view—much like an agent or editor would. Critique partners can read your story as your future readers would, and provide you with valuable feedback to improve your story line, tighten your language, and generally get your manuscript ready for submission.

So go out and find a critique group--you can even start out with an online critique partner. Just remember that you need to find someone who’ll treat your manuscript with respect and a lot of T.A.C.T. , and be sure to reciprocate by giving TACT-ful critiques as well.


26 comments:

  1. TACT is a good technique. With my first book, I was nervous about critiques, but by the second, I more than welcomed them.

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    1. The first critique is always the most nerve-wracking, but once you've survived it, you realize how much it helps your writing :)

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  2. I love having my work critiqued now because it lets me see what readers are getting and what they're not so I know what I need to work on.

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    1. Agreed! Sometimes I'm too close to my work to catch inconsistencies :)

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  3. My critique group uses the Milford method of critiquing. It tends to work out okay. I can't recall anyone losing their crap and stomping off or anything. So that works.

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    1. Never heard of the Milford method--I'll have to check that out!

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  4. Oh how I wish I could be a part of a critique group..they are hard to find where I live. Anyway, great advice, I like the TACT method.

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    1. Thanks Elise! I think you can find online critique groups as well:)

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  5. That's the sandwich effect - praise-critique-praise.

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    1. ooh. I like that! Sandwich effect. :)

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  6. Great technique. I like getting critiqued, good or bad I learn from them ;)

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    1. Agreed! critiques are always a learning experience.

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  7. MJ Thanks so much for hosting us today! You rock!

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    1. You're most welcome. Feel free to come back any time!

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  8. I'm way too psycho to join a group. :)
    I do get critiques by email though.
    Good points though.
    Heather

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  9. The TACT method of critiquing sounds like a positive and truly helpful approach. Constructive criticism is always more easy to accept when it's offered with kindness.

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  10. I like the idea of TACT. I've found with my writing partners when I critique their stuff, they have an easier/more fun time going through my notes when I add little jokes or fun comments about their story.

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  11. I love your TACT definition. I'll have to save it for later reference.

    ...........dhole

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  12. Love the TACT technique. I know you guys would be great critique partners!

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  13. Hey M.J and hey nutschell,

    How good is that. Although I personally write just for fun and getting critiqued is not part of the equation. My writing is there for all to see. If they like it, fine. If they don't, that's fine also. Okay, I do have one critique partner. Yep, Penny the Jack Russell dog and modest internet superstar!

    Very informative posting.

    Gary

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  14. I love my CPs! They definitely have TACT. :)

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  15. This is perfect and exactly what writing and critiquing is like. It's horrifying at the beginning, but once you realize how much it helps, you run around like a maniac looking for more! And tact is super important. Great post! :)

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  16. Wonderful post, ladies! I liked the T.A.C.T. plan. I was terrified to get my first crit, but knew I needed it. Now I have a great crit partner, but know I could use one or two more. I have a hard time asking though. lol!

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  17. When I first went looking for critiques, all I got was "good job". Not helpful at all. A good critique is worth its weight in gold.

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  18. Wow.... now this is a post I am saving for the future!

    TACT is an awesome thing - and cheers for reminding us of its importance :)

    Thanks so much, Nutschell (and M.J.) :)

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  19. awesome article! i've seen tact before, but it's been a while - thanks for the reminder.

    i love getting crits & reviews - the more opinions i hear, the better armed i am to defeat the weak spots in my writing.

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