Tomorrow, I’ll post an addendum to yesterday’s post on Total Immersion. Can y’all guess what that addendum will be?
Today’s Thursday Post, is once again inspired by my evening spent at the DFW Writers Workshop. It was a pretty crazy last night. We were locked out of the building and tornado sirens were blaring, but the few and the brave lasted until someone arrived with a key.
I was cowering in my car and just happened to last that long on account of having nowhere to go.
Anyway, this was my second workshop. Again, totally worth the $25 to participate for the summer. But what I want to talk about is the skill of critiquing. Because yes, it is a skill. And it is really amazing to see how talented the longtime members of the Workshop are at critting.
So, you might be saying to yourself, Why should I care about critiquing? I want my work critiqu*ed* and if I give okay critiques back then great.
Just kidding. I know none of y’all would say that. But even if you did, I think it’s a worthwhile exercise to really look at the skill of critiquing, not only so that you can be a good critter, but also so that you can direct the person that critiques you.
When I crit, it’s often unguided. But it is so helpful if the person whose work I’m reading asks me a few specific questions, so that I can think about those while reading or make sure that I’m giving back the most useful response for them.
When my work is being critiqued, I know the responses could be more useful if certain aspects were touched on. So, here are some of the things I think make for an effective critique (of your own work, of others, or for others critiquing your own work):
-too many metaphors/similes
-What was your favorite part? (It’s just as important to hear what is working the best because, as writers, it’s so easy to second guess. We need to know which parts to keep and feel good about it!)
-How did each of the main characters come across?
-What didn’t you like? (A lot of critters don’t want to say “I didn’t like that part at all.” But let me tell you. Some of the most helpful critiques last night were ones where people were like “No, that’s not any good.” Saying you don’t like something doesn’t have to be mean. That’s the whole point of critiquing, though, so don’t be afraid to use it!)
-weird character or object emphasis (sometimes authors will zero in on something or someone sort of random and the reader is thinking, Ok, this must play a major role–>it’s always odd when it turns out just to be a self-indulgent description instead)
-varied sentence structure
-forward motion (are you both creating and answering questions in your passages so that the reader is compelled to move on?)
-rising and falling tension (the reader needs to catch her breath, too)
-extra words, especially adjectives (Do you consistently have one adjective or one word too many?)
-gaps in logic
-clear character motivations
-Is the story told in scenes?
-check for info dumps/authorial intrusions/and “explain-y” language
-Along the same line, in an attempt to avoid an info dump, are you making the dialogue too contrived in trying to get the characters to give up the information? In other words, would your characters really be saying those things to one another right then?
-Enough description? (all five senses touched where possible?)
-Do the descriptions match the perspective and worldview of the pov character?
-Scenes have premises, too. Is the premise of the scene interesting?
-Too much narrative in action sequence?
AND THE #1, ABSOLUTE MOST IMPORTANT THING IS: SUGGESTIONS.
There is nothing more valuable to me than suggestions. To some extent, if a writer knew how to make something better, she would. So if a critter can bring fresh eyes and try to come up with a *solution* that is awesome and oh-so-appreciated. Don’t be afraid to get in there and say, “Oh, yanno what? This might work.” Because even if that idea doesn’t make it into the cut, you never know what will spark the next idea and the next and so on.
Remember the author has been looking at these pages forever. And what do I always say about editing? It’s hardest to see what’s not already on the page. Critters can more easily separate themselves from the words and, thus, can sometimes more easily help solve.
These are a sampling of the ideas I got by listening to people critique last night. I hope they are helpful and I will continue to post as I attend my Wednesday meetings.
Happy (almost) Friday, Everyone!