I like to critique. If I have something to read and comment on, I will happily set aside my crappy words and do it!
I love to read what other people have imagined.
After critiquing so many queries and first pages for Son of a Pitch, after going to my writers’ group and commenting, after sending numerous manuscripts back to their authors…I can’t help but wonder why people come to me. If what I say is helpful. Though I have been told it is.
I’m no expert on writing. I don’t really know if anyone is.
My hubs told me that I should be an editor…and I laughed. I know he was thinking of a way I could be paid for the work I put in, BUT I AM NOT AN EDITOR. I critique.
So what does that mean?
Critiquing for me is an immersive experience…especially if I have the words…listening at writers’ group is another thing, I’m not as good at the listening. I critique because I am an author and it is part of the job, a give and take kinda thing.
As I read, I make tons of comments. I ask all sorts of questions. I will point out where the words don’t make sense to me…where I get lost in the choreography…where a certain word doesn’t quite fit for me…basically any time my brain skips a beat and says…
But I also highlight the moments I love. The words that flow in a perfect wave…the moments in the story where I have a serious reaction (I will write what my exact reaction is, I have been told those can be humorous)…the moments I have thoughts about the characters or story…
So, basically…everything I think, I write down. I’m not telling anyone what to do. I’m not giving orders as to what must be done for the manuscript to be “good”. I’m giving my perspective, so the author can see one person’s interpretation of their work. We write with a single idea in mind, but writing is art and that is always seen in a million different ways. It’s always good to know how others envision it.
I ask questions for a very simple reason. Not because I think they all need to be answered in that paragraph, but to kick the author’s creative brain into gear, get the imagination flowing outside of the stream…to spark any ideas that the author never knew they wanted.
I write down my reactions so the author will know as a reader, what I am reacting to…what I am interested in. Of course, not everyone will react to the same things. I will react with a lot of flailing and all caps reactions to demon fights or creepy ghosts than kissing or falling in love.
That’s just me.
I expect authors to read my comments, to digest them, then to ignore all the questions that don’t spark any ideas, to ignore all the things that don’t matter. I expect the author to do what is right for their story. The author is the only one who can be certain their manuscript is finished (though I’m pretty sure no one knows when this thing called “finished” is).
I saw a tweet yesterday of an author who wanted to know about finding critique partners…about how one faces social anxiety and talking to people about their work. I have a group of trusted individuals who will read my crappy whatever drafts. They haven’t always been the same group. It takes time to find people. It takes guts to swap chapters to see if you will work well as CPs. It takes being open to what others have to say, but knowing what you need to hear and how you need to hear it to help push you to be the best writer you can be.
It takes time to find people to trust with your words.
But critiques are important. Getting that view from someone outside the story is important. Growing as a writer is the objective.