Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Critique THIS!

I recently joined a writers critique group with four other members of SCBWI-C (the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators - Carolinas). The group is specifically for writers working on picture books and/or books for a middle grade (MG) audience.

Just FYI - This is not my first critique group.

Already the question has been raised (okay, I raised it): How do you decide what to do with the comments, suggestions, evaluations, and criticisms you receive from group members about your manuscript?

Oh, I know all the pat answers, such as "Take what makes sense to you and ignore the rest" or "If more than two people say the same thing, take it seriously."

It seems to me that those answers are a bit simplistic.

I shall now provide a set of succinct, brilliant instructions on how to sift through all the advice you receive from critique group members to arrive at those pearls of wisdom that will lead you to create the book you always dreamed you could write. After all, this is a WRITING BLOG and I AM A WRITER.

Hold on a second while I . . .
Sorry. You see, there's no way I can create those brilliant instructions. I truly don't know what to do with the feedback I receive.

Oh, sure, some of it is easy. Typos, grammatical errors, tense shifts, word choices -- I can deal with that sort of thing.

I'm talking about the other stuff. If you are a writer and you have had your work critiqued, you know what I mean.

So what do you do? How do you do? (Fine, thanks, and you?)

I want some answers, people. And I want them NOW!


  1. Well, I had my manuscript read by three beta readers and what I found I took notice of is if two of more of them said the same thing, then a red flag came up. Other than that, I feel as we read, how we perceive it, is subjective, so as the author if the suggestion really doesn't sit, then I go with my gut feeling as to what is right.

    1. Very reasonable approach, Helen! I guess for me, the real problem arises when I honestly don't know if I agree with the critiquer or not. That is, I see their point, yet something in me resists what they are saying -- and I don't know if I should "go with my gut" or follow their suggestion. And I know there often is no "right answer."

      Thank you for commenting!

  2. I thought I was about to be given the secret key! : ) But it helps to know I'm not the only one who struggles to know what is best for my writing. Helen - I am going to keep my fingers crossed that at least two critiques say the same thing. Sounds like a good strategy, and since it's one Scotti mentioned too.... that's two people saying that the approach has merit. Done, I accept this advice! :) Thanks for sharing your thoughts and advice, both of you!

    1. Hi Shonna! Thanks for stopping by. I'm glad you saw the humor in my post (my sense of humor is sometimes viewed as one of the Seven Great Perplexities of the World).

  3. Ok... my favorite type of critique is one in which readers simply reacts to my work honestly--with questions, comments, etc. For instance, I like it when people ask "what does character A want from character B?" or "can you increase the tension in this chapter?" These types of question questions point me to ambiguities/ weaknesses in the text and allows me to take another look at them--and solve the problems MYSELF! I also like to hear when something works--ie, "this is funny."

  4. That sounds great, Julie! Thank you for visiting and leaving a comment!


So, what do you say?