Friday, October 31, 2008

Writing and Critiquing

One positive aspect of being a writer is all the wonderful talented writers we meet during our long and challenging journey. Writing is an individual process where we each learn and explore our own way to write. We all write in different styles, genres and voices. Some of us write fast and furiously, and some of us lope along at the speed of a slimy slug. It's what makes writing so exciting and rewarding.

Often times we are called upon to lend our services to our fellow writers in the form of critiquing. Whether we are a member of a writing class, involved in a writing group, or share our work with an individual critique partner, having our work critiqued is an important, necessary part of our writing journey, and it's one of the most difficult.

It's hard to hand our personal writing over to anyone -- including a friend, teacher, or stranger to be critiqued. But best to have their input before submitting your baby to an editor or agent.

Often times, I will be involved in judging a contest. This is fun because it's anonymous, and it allows us the freedom to be honest without creating hurt feelings. Of course, when I judge, I attempt to be as kind, gentle and diplomatic as possible -- making suggestions rather than telling someone what to do to make their story better. After all, it's only my opinion.

Remember all writers are at different levels in their writing -- from beginners all the way to professional, published writers.

Some basic rules to follow when critiquing:

*Make comments and suggestions -- do not rewrite their work
*Be encouraging
*Remind the writer that this is your opinion
*Point out the great lines as well as the sentences that could use revising
*Put in a smiley face or two :)
*Keep in mind the writing level of your author
*Remember, there is always something to learn when reading other writer's work
*Be professional
*Enjoy the process
*Critique unto others as you would want them to critique for you.

Good luck in your writing, and embrace the journey! :)


Dell Smith said...

Great post, excellent advice. Either in workshops or writing groups, I always try to start with positive comments. Even if the writer just started and obviously needs to put in the time to get better, you can always find something encouraging to say.
Also, I totally agree: it's detrimental and more than a little ego-centric to rewrite somebody's prose--just gentle prods in this direction or that should be enough to get your point across. Like you say, it's only opinions.

Anonymous said...

Hi Cindy,
I agree with Dell. This is an excellent piece and extremely helpful for all levels of writers. One of the neat things about having someone else look at your work is that he or she often sees something that you missed, even after countless revisions. I'm more familiar with critiquing poetry since I have been involved in two poetry groups over the last 15 years or so. It's also good to know that what you wanted to get across in your writing is clear. Love the slimy slug! Robin

Houston A.W. Knight said...

Love the blog today. Great advice!

I hope you had a good Halloween!


Cynthia Sherrick said...

Thanks for reading my blog and for all your comments! :)

Liz Smith said...

It's so interesting to hear about writing critique, I come from a world of art critique, and it definitely has its own vocabulary. If one wasn't accustomed to the critique environment, feelings could easily get hurt! It's important not to crush the creative spark.