Monday, May 24, 2010
Stating the obvious about critiques
Let me tell you, I've read quite a few posts on giving and receiving critiques, most recently over at Query Tracker, and there's one piece of advice I fail to see posted upfront and in bold-ass letters on every single ever-loving post regarding giving and receiving critiques.
So let me say it upfront in bold-ass letters:
KNOW YOUR SHIT!
Sounds obvious, doesn't it. Click on Query Tracker and look for my comment. Here, I'll repost it:
A poor critique can ruin a good piece.
It can also ruin a good writer.
There should be a license for critics.
Personally, I don't indulge in critiques, because there are so few people out there who can do it well.
It's bloody word-surgery for anyone who can hold a knife. Yeah. Eff that!
To which Ms. Kaufman responded:
Eric, work with a number of different critique partners, listen to what they say politely, and dismiss what you can't use. But if they all say the same thing, it's time to check your ego at the door. I suspect that never getting critiqued is the surest route to never getting published.
She's right, you know, especially that last wonderful sentence. You need a good critique partner, or some good eyes sifting over your work. She is absolutely correct.
I fully agree with everything she said in the article. I'll summarize in two words: Be professional.
The thing is, some folks learn how to critique nicely, with gentle words, use the sandwich -- compliment critique compliment. They offer up a thorough critique of your work, well-written and professional-sounding.
But they don't know what the hell they're talking about.
That my friends is why I have trouble finding critique partners. I have high standards. I want someone who knows at least as much about writing as I do.
I need someone who understands the mechanics and structure of writing a good story and doesn't spend all their time poking out the simple grammatical errors.
Grammar errors are the LAST thing you look for, after everything else is squared away. Sure, it's the most obvious, but it's like the floors in your house. The floors in your house are the biggest and most obvious things to clean, right? Vacuum. Sweep. Mop. Obvious, right, everyone knows that.
The floors are also the last thing you clean in your house, NOT THE FIRST! Shutters, windows, the fans, the baseboards, beds, bathrooms, dust, wipe, declutter, those all come before the floors, which you knock out last thing.
Grammar's the same thing in a critique. Don't critique grammar until the structure is refined, the plot makes sense, the characters are well-defined, the scene is CLEAR and CONCISE, the words are punchy, the story is interesting and entertaining.
I'll say it again: KNOW YOUR SHIT!
So my participle is dangling. Thanks for noticing, but that did not help me improve my story. You just helped me make a paragraph much better before I delete it and rewrite the whole chapter.
See my point about doing the floors last?
Anyway, this is why I've had such a tough time finding crit partners. I found an Honors English teacher who was critting my work, but she met a boyfriend turned fiance and I haven't heard from her in a while. Man, she is great. Man, she's happy, and that makes me happy.
She never mentioned grammar. Never said I misspelled a word. She never brought up my red-ink -1 infractions.
Nope. She read the piece, front to back, and offered up a few one-liners that helped me improve my piece.
She was nice. She was professional. She used the sandwich technique.
And she knew her shit.
See my point?
To my fellow bloggers, I'm still getting around to all the Log Line blogfest entries. What a great exercise that was and is. Thank you all for your critiques on my entries.
Some of you sure know your... craft.
PS. Ronald McDonald has nothing to do with this post. I simply thought the picture was funny.