After my huge writing fest last month, this month I have focused a bit on the work of others. Because being a writer means so much more than writing words. There is research. There is reading. But there is also critiquing.
Commenting on friends’ stories always made me nervous. Please, I could barely put down words of my own, what could I possibly say to help someone else? The more I do it, the more I love it. Critiquing has become one of my favorite things. I have a list of e-mail addresses of people I have sent my work to and who have sent me theirs. Whenever a tweet appears asking for a CP, I used to jump on it, but now, I hold myself back from replying… PICK ME! SEND ME ALL THE WORDS! Like I said, I have a list. I finished a friend’s ms not long ago (wow was that one fun!). I have a chapter to read in my inbox NOW! Eeeekk! (only because I have read it before and really liked it) Recently, I finished rereading a first chapter for a new writer, who wants ALL THE HELP. He’ll get there, but I do feel sorry for cramming the knowledge I have gained in ten years into his one chapter.
No matter how much I love it, I can’t do it for everyone. My brain would explode. Ew.
Critiques are funny beasts, strange and wild. They take time and thought and mostly my brain feels wonky when I get done.
I am honest with what I say, but always try to make my comments helpful. Then I send back the manuscript, covered in all my opinions, and wait. A ‘thank you’ might be returned before they fall off my radar. A few have never spoken to me again. There are a handful that send me more words, who tell me how great my feedback is and how it helps them find what’s missing or sparks an idea on how to fix a problem they couldn’t quite put their finger on.
THIS, people, THIS makes my day.
Critique styles are different for everyone. I am more of a write down ALL of my thoughts on everything… what doesn’t make sense to me, any questions that pop into my head, anything I want the writer to know, but also I mark lines I love, places where the description really grabs me. My comments can be scary and they aren’t for everyone. Finding CPs is a process, like real life (I know, BAD WORD) we all have to find what works for us as individuals.
I critique the way I want to be critiqued. I want every thought because you never know what will lead to that fabulous idea that will add extra layers of awesome to the work. I tell every person I have ever critiqued to take what speaks to them… to focus on the comments that set the wheels spinning and forget the rest. They are, after all, opinions that sprout from my strange and scary mind, and, in the end, it’s their story.
Critiques can hurt, if you let them. Maybe we should all shove a bit more pride in our souls, raise the bar of self-confidence, and believe in what we do. All the manuscripts and stories I have written, they’re mine. I wrote them. No one else in the Universe could have done it quite like me.
Whether that’s good or bad is yet to be seen.
Go forth and spread all your wonderfulness! You never know… you might make someone’s day.