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
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.