Monday, March 1, 2010

To crit or not to crit: the last bit

What can the critter learn from critting? If you read my previous posts, some things become clear:

You learn patience. In the process of trying to give constructive criticism, you learn to choose your words carefully, thinking through what you say and how you say it before you hit ‘send’.

I always read through my crit before sending. Did my intent come through clearly? If something seems vague, I do my best to clarify. I look for typos. What good is a crit if it doesn’t make sense and has avoidable mistakes? It doesn’t take long to double check.

Light bulbs go on. You realize some of the mistakes other writers make are things you do yourself. The advice you offer others may work for you. As you work on applying those suggestions to your own writing, you cut down on making goofups in the first place. And that’s the ultimate goal of joining a writing workshop anyway.

Other light bulbs go on. You see how other writers do things really well. You have access to the writer, for a change, and you can message the person to ask how they came up with a phrase. But please! Do not plagiarize anybody! Use the same technique but don’t open dozens of worm cans by plagiarizing.

You can message the writer to ask what sort of writing tools they use - online and hard copy.

A more selfish idea is that if you establish a good rapport with somebody through critting, and they sell something, they may be able to put in a good word for you. Please don’t let that become your primary motive, though. Speaking personally, as a writer I notice details, and I’m likely to notice if you’re only interested in what I might do for you. ‘Nuff said on that.

Why am I not an owl critter? Because owls eat unpleasant things. :)


  1. Hi! Just read through your crit series. I agree there's a lot to learn from the process of critting. One thing that always pleases me, especially when following a novel, is seeing the writing process work on another author's story. Very informative and it's great to see what choices the author makes in revision and how those choices impact their second, third, etc. drafts.

  2. Hi Zae. Yeah, I love watching writers develop. You can see it in published works, but to me it's more meaningful when you get in on the ground floor of a story and see each draft get better. Thanks for stopping by :)

  3. I wrote a novel, put it "away" for a week while I tried to discover the secret of writing (I know, a whole week, right?), and then started editing. About an hour into it, I laid it down on a shelf, covering it with a few paperbacks and cried. What the hell was I doing? I had no business writing - I knew I'd broken every rule, but had no idea how or even how to see my mistakes. How can you change what you can't identify?

    Then I started critting other people's stuff. A lot. I posted a few short pieces for people to rip apart. I didn't look at my novel for four months. I took it out the other day. And, presto, I saw everything. Despite the enormous task I have ahead of me, I know (more or less) where I went wrong, what I need to work on. It's a miracle.
    A miracle created by other brave writers who put themselves out there for me to try and help. Who helped whom, I wonder.

  4. Hi Lauren, thanks for dropping in. You've discovered the give-and-take miracle. I remember typing this in a crit: "You're repeating here and that slows down your story." A bell rang in my head and I finally realized why people told me *I* shouldn't repeat!

    Thanks for letting us all know how much you've gained from the process, and best of luck with your novel :)